New Year’s Resolution: Learn Quick Search!

If you’ve been at ISU for a while, you’ve probably noticed that the Library website no longer has a traditional library catalog.  Instead, there’s a new search tool called Quick Search at the top of the home page.  If you’re a faculty member, student, researcher or a member of the ISU community, the New Year is a good time to level up your Quick Search skills so you can get the most out of Quick Search, and also know when it’s best to use a different search tool.

Hey, it’s just a search box.  It can’t be that complicated!  

No, it’s not complicated if you’re searching for just anything – but for library research, that’s rarely the case.

Quick Search box

The first thing you need to know is that it’s really worth your time to use one or more of the 3 drop-down menus (shown above) that are located just below the search box.  The choices listed in these drop-down menus help you focus your search.  Why spend time plowing through thousands of results if they’re not what you need?

Quick Search & Drop-down menu #1

The second thing you need to know?  Quick Search lets you search far more than would a traditional library catalog.  We’ve opened up drop-down menu #1 here, so you can see all the types of materials you can find with this tool, including Articles, content located on the Library website, images, and a lot more.  That’s why it’s a good idea to always take a few seconds to focus your search.  Just type your search terms in the box, then choose the relevant selection(s) in one or more of the drop-down menus, then click the Search button.  You’ll have your focused results in a fraction of a second.

Third thing:  In general terms, Quick Search connects to various indexes and databases and allows you to search their contents seamlessly, without ever leaving Quick Search.  Nice!!  This can be a huge time saver.

But, if you’re doing research on race & ethnic studies topics, get ready for the shocking news!

Most subject-focused indexes that focus on race and ethnic studies research articles have NOT been “connected” with   Quick Search due to software incompatibilities.  Shocked: http://www.cs4fn.org/internet/therecipeforspam.phpThis means you’re probably not searching the best or most comprehensive collections of research articles in these subject areas. Yes, you may find some interesting articles and information, but you’ll definitely need to go directly to indexes like Black Studies Center, Bibliography of Native North Americans, Ethnic NewsWatch, Hispanic American Periodicals Index, Chicano Database, and others to make sure you’re choosing the best tools for a thorough, scholarly and comprehensive search.

It’s a good strategy to use Quick Search and subject-focused indexes to ensure you’re getting everything you may need.

Do start exploring the drop-down menus and some of the many fun features of Quick Search, such as creating your own account, tagging, and reviewing materials of interest.  It’s a great way to start the New Year!

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Music to my ears: Streaming music from the Library

Did you know that the Library subscribes to Naxos Music Library? NML is a huge digital collection of streaming music files of classic recordings. Many years ago, I worked in a record store and became familiar with Naxos as a classical music label. While I love classical music, I was surprised this morning to do some digging in NML and find a number of other genres of interest.  Here are a few highlights:

Blues – Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Etta James, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and others wailing through classics such as “Smokestack Lightnin,” “Preaching the blues,” “Spoonful,” “Got my Mojo Working,” “Dust My Broom,” and more.

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  Side Note: Did you know Blues legend Big Bill Broonzy lived & worked in Ames, Iowa in the late 1940s? According to an article in the Ames Tribune, Big Bill found “…a job as a janitor at Friley Hall, and during that time, he lived in one of the Quonset huts at Pammel Court. Broonzy wrote “The Moppin’ Blues” in honor of his employment in Ames.”

(See: Black History Month: Big Bill Broonzy: ‘The Moppin’ Blues,'” by Laura Millsaps, Ames Tribune, Dec. 17, 2010)

On NML, you can hear Big Bill sing “I Feel So Good,” which features a rollicking piano, harmonica, and snappy drum work, with lots of friends screaming in the background.  Just the track for a Friday morning at work pick me up!

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Those of you who are fans like me of country blues, will of course want to give a listen to the sheer genius  of Robert Johnson.  Or if you’re not sure what “country blues” means, give a listen to this gifted and legendary musician – his strong vocals, inventive guitar work, surprising syncopation, songwriting, and lyrics are all unparalleled.  NML includes several of his classics, including “Preaching the Blues,” “Little Queen of Spades,” “Dust My Broom,” “Come On in My Kitchen,” “They’re Red Hot,” “Terraplane Blues,” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.”

Finding:  Naxos Music Library allows you to select the songs you want to hear, select sound quality, share information via Twitter and Facebook (though I’m not sure if our Naxos settings support that), and even provides links for you to buy or download the files you want.  NML has a Keyword Search box at the top of its page, but I’ll recommend you use the Menu Bar instead and browse Genres, Artists, and so on.  When I use the Keyword Search box for specific artists, my results are often off the mark.

  Sometimes the Keyword Search box seems to work well, though.  I searched American Indian there, and found a number of recordings including the wonderfully relaxing Spirit Wind: Native American Flute, by the Native Flute Ensemble.  Listening to it now as I write!

You can also search by browsing through the Menu Bar links.  One fruitful place to look through is the Genre link, where you’ll see that NML includes Classical Music; Contemporary Jazz & Jazz; Folk Legends; Blues; “Nostalgia” (looks like a lot of Johnny Cash listed there, along with Duke Ellington, “timeless Country songs,” brass bands, and lots of interesting miscellanea); World, and more.

The World genre alone has 184 fabulous pages of listings, including pages and pages of African music of all kinds – traditional, contemporary, choirs, and more –  including a 3-volume series called African Rhythms and Instruments, with each volume including specific regions).  Find something of interest, click the songs you want to listen to, and that’s it!  There’s so much here, ranging from traditional songs from Afghanistan to Japanese music for the koto, the shamisen, and shakuhachi to Lebanese bellydance to  Yiddish and Klezmer recordings, and basically music from ALL OVER the world – far too much for me to page through, particularly as my computer seems to have gone on strike at the moment.  The standard entries seem to list the country or tradition first, as in “KURDISTAN Dursa Acar: Traditional and Contemporary Music of Kurdistan.”  So, you should be able to search a country or tradition of interest by using the Keyword Search box, and zip to the items of interest that way.

 Naxos Music Library has something for everyone!

I’m a neophyte fan of Iranian / Persian classical music, and was so happy to find a recording called In a Persian Garden: The Santur – just the thing to listen to at work, when I’m busy writing and doing other computer-related work.

Tracks included on NML are “Dashti,” “Shur,” “Abu-Ata,” “Afshari,” and “Homayun.”  As with many of NML’s recordings there’s a link to a pdf booklet the provides helpful liner notes and information.  A santur is a hammered dulcimer – give a listen to hear the amazingly beautiful, silvery cascades of sound that the musician, Nasser Rastegar-Nejad, magically produces.  Niceto have these Booklet notes for noobs like me to learn more about this beautiful music!

Chinese music – Before I sign off, I also want to tell you a bit about the Chinese music section (listed as a Genre of its own) within Naxos Music Library.  It’s fantastic!   A wide range of music is represented, including the wonderfully relaxing Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto; Ding Shande’s somber & triumphant Long March Symphony; chamber music, and primarily slick orchestral arrangements of Chinese “oldies” and Chinese pop.  You can of course find lots of traditional Chinese music by looking through the Genres > World category.  There you’ll find wonderful records such as Ancient Art Music of China, Plucked Stringed Instrument Classics, and more.

So – how do you find or refer campus colleagues & students to Naxos Music Library?  It’s listed by name in the eLibrary’s Article Indexes and Databases list.   You’ll be amazed by the breadth of music included there for your listening pleasure.  Enjoy!!

HAPI days

For many years, I used to be an indexer for the Hispanic American Periodicals Index, known by its felicitous acronym, HAPI.   Indexes of course are the primary finding tools you want to use when you’re looking for journal articles or magazine articles on your topic.  Indexers are the people who page through journals and research materials of interest and describe relevant contents, using pre-defined categories and vocabulary.  Produced by UCLA’s Latin American Center, and staffed by volunteer indexers from around the world, HAPI is first place you and your students should look when looking for research articles on Latin American and US Latin@ topics that fall within the social sciences and the humanities.  There is also selective coverage of agricultural and some science subject areas.  According to their website, the index includes “over 275,000 journal article citations” from 1977 to the present and from over 600 international research journals.

The technology world is changing so fast.  I think IT workers and librarians are some of the most qualified professionals to note how quickly everything now changes.  When I first began my work as an indexer, HAPI was still in book format only – a big, cheery bright orange of a book.  When the index went online, they retained their trademark orange and tweaked the name to become HAPI Online.

  HAPI is primarily a Latin American-focused index, which means that most contents deal with Mexico, Central America, Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations, and South America, including Portuguese-speaking Brazil.  Articles in HAPI come from a wide range of respected research journals published around the world that have a Latin American (or US Latin@) focus.  HAPI is also an excellent tool for finding research articles about Latin American indigenous peoples, and Indian cultures and traditions throughout the region.  During my tenure with HAPI, I worked with articles published in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and even Dutch.  Much of the work focused on paging through newly released journals on my assigned list, and filling out the indexing forms to indicate author, title of article, name of journal, volume, issue, page numbers, any illustrations, and then assign subject headings working from a lengthy published list of approved subject headings.

Subject headings – called “descriptors” in some indexes – are extremely important in online indexes like HAPI that do not provide full-text articles within the index itself.   When an index does include full-text, it’s easy to search any terms and find at least some results.  That’s because the system is searching all full-text AND citations, looking for your search terms.   Serious researchers tend to understand the power of defined subject heading searches.  They allow you really quickly to discover what the index has on your specific topic, and you don’t have to wonder whether you missed anything.

But what about the Library’s Quick Search?  Doesn’t that also search for articles?  Yes, it does – but the background of Quick Search is that it hooks up with many but not all of the Library’s subscription databases, like HAPI.  Take a look at the list of indexes & databases from which Quick Search pulls its articles.  Do you see HAPI listed there?  I didn’t think so.  Simply put, Quick Search is configured to work with indexes that align well with its own design.  HAPI, and other indexes developed by academic research centers or certain publishers, do not align well with Quick Search and thus their unique contents are not accessed or searched when you search using Quick Search.  This means that you will definitely want to use HAPI whenever you need to make sure that your search on Latin American or Latin@ issues is comprehensive and current.

But that doesn’t mean Quick Search will not have relevant Latin American/Latin@ articles.  Other indexes that work well with Quick Search certainly do have some Latin American/Latin@-focused content.  For example, the MLA International Bibliography index will certainly include literary criticism and similar research articles on Latin American / Latin@ authors and their works.

Quick Search vs. HAPI:  So, what if we do a test drive of Quick Search vs. HAPI?  We’ll choose a random topic or two and see what we find in terms of research (peer-reviewed) journal articles.

Random topic #1:  Literary criticism and Julio Cortázar

Quick Search quickly finds 107 “research articles”, with Quick Search’s menus set to find “Articles” (1st drop down menu) and set to find my terms “anywhere” in the record.  (When I do the same search but set the 3rd drop-down menu to find my words “in subject”, Quick Search finds only 1 article.  And when I do the original search again moments later, it retrieved only 102 research articles.  Quick Search is dynamic, which means results may vary from search to search.)   Most of the articles I found seem to come from journals that are in English, and not Latin American in focus, such as the women’s studies journal Signs; the library science journal Collection Management, Studies in Short Fiction, and so on.

Julio Cortazar & gatito

On the 2nd page of my results, a few Latin American-focused journals begin to show up, including Explicacion de textos literarios; Latin American Literary Review, and Variaciones Borges.  Many of the articles, however, do not seem to be truly focused on Cortazar.  Since we’re searching full-text articles in Quick Search, it’s likely many of the articles may mention his name in passing within the text yet not truly focus on literary criticism on any of Cortázar’s works.  Of the first 20 results, 16 of the articles were in English, and only 4 in Spanish.  When I search only the words criticism AND Julio Cortázar, with the menus set to find “Articles” and my words “in subject,” and set to show peer-reviewed articles only, I find 26 articles.  Of them, 24 are in English and only 2 are in Spanish and Latin American-focused research journals.

HAPI – since this index uses defined subject heading vocabulary, I searched only the words criticism and cortázar.  (With a little experimentation, I quickly see that the HAPI index does not use “literary criticism” as a subject phrase. So I simplify, and drop the word literary, figuring Cortázar and criticism will probably be unique enough in this index.) Turns out I’m right! This search strategy quickly finds 736 research articles.  Because we are not searching full-text in HAPI – just the citations and coded subject headings – there is a much stronger likelihood that the majority of these articles are indeed about Cortázar and criticism of his specific works.  All of the journals have a strong focus on Latin American research, since that’s the pre-requisite for inclusion in the HAPI index.  Of the first 20 results, 14 of the articles were in Spanish; 1 in Portuguese, 1 in Italian, and the remaining 4 were in English. Nice!

Random topic #2:  Rock en español 

Quick Search – finds 12 “research articles” on the whole phrase, Rock en español, when set to find “Articles” (1st drop-down menu) and filtered to show “research articles” only.   (When I do the same search but set the 3rd drop-down menu to find my words “in subject”, Quick Search finds no results at all.)    Of the 12 results found earlier (finding my words “anywhere”), all are in English.  A number of them appear to be in popular or trade magazines, such as Publishers Weekly and Latin Trade, despite Quick Search’s filter to show “research articles” only and their claim that these are peer-reviewed journals.   Once again, a number of the the articles appear NOT to be focused on Rock en español, which means the phrase must show up within the full-text.  One article I found, from a publication called Community Development, focuses on the Latin@ population of Perry, Iowa.  Where does Rock en español come in?  Here it is, from the full-text article:

  • “Perry’s Viva Latino festival takes place in mid-September and aims to celebrate Latin American culture through music and food. It is organized by Hispanics United for Perry, an informal network of the emerging Latino leadership in town. An impressive array of vendors (especially for a small town like Perry) attends the event, selling tacos and burritos from Mexico, tamales from Guatemala and pupusas from El Salvador. Bands from throughout the region play both traditional Mexican music and more contemporary Rock En Espanol. Unfortunately, this opportunity to showcase Latino culture in Perry is relegated to the background, because the venue of the festival has been a dilapidated park rather than the recently redeveloped central square of downtown Perry which is next to the Carnegie Library and Hotel Pattee.”
    (Trabalzi, Ferro,  & Sandoval, Gerardo.  “The Exotic Other: Latinos & the remaking of Latino identity in Perry, Iowa,” Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society, Jan-March, 2010, Vol.41(1), p.76(16).
Interesting, but not focused on our topic at all.

HAPI – finds 3 research articles on the whole phrase, Rock en español, which is not an official subject heading in HAPI.  A search on rock AND music AND español finds 4 research articles.  Journals include Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, Latin American Music Review, and Americas.  All 4 articles are in English.  Two of these 4 articles were also found by Quick Search.

Café Tacvba canta “Chica banda”, cortesía de YouTube

Side note:  One of my fun achievements while at HAPI was the establishment of Café Tacvba as a recognized subject heading!  I also successfully advocated for the addition of Centro Journal from the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos  to be added to list of indexed journals.

Random topic #3: Mexican Americans and education

Quick Search – finds 142 results when set to find “Articles” (1st drop-down menu) and find my words “in subject” area (3rd drop-down menu), and filtered to show “research articles” only.  Despite these settings and filters, irrelevant articles still pop up.  For example, “Racial & ethnic socialization in later generations of a Mexican American family” pops up because one of its subject headings is “Generation gap – educational aspects.”   Another article on “Community based violence,” an article on spousal abuse, shows up because of a subject heading called “Women-education.”

HAPI – finds 153 research articles on the terms Mexican Americans and education.  Articles come from well-known & widely respected Latin@-focused journals such as Journal of Latinos and Education; Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences; Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy; Latino Studies, and more.  The articles are all focused on highly relevant topics such as higher education, K-12 education, educational attainment of immigrant children, and so on.  Looks like all the first 20 results on this topic are in English.

Random topic #4:  Indians of Colombia

Quick Search – set to search Indians AND Colombia with 1st drop-down menu set to Articles and 3rd drop-down menu set to find my words “in subject,” and filtered to show only “Peer-reviewed articles,”  Quick Search finds 19 articles, 1 of which is listed twice in the results.  13 of the unique articles are in English, with a few – such as an article on the Garifuna diaspora in New York City and Honduras – that seem not to be on our topic at all.  Turns out that article popped up not due to subject headings (odd, since the search was set to look only in the subject areas!) but due to a misspelling in the full-text that refers to “…pre-Colombian [sic] civilization in the Americas”.   Most of the articles retrieved are in English, with a small handful in Spanish.

  HAPI – finds 34 research articles, many with a strong focus on contemporary issues including displacement by the petroleum industry; internal migration and displacement due to national violence and instability, biodiversity and ecological concerns, and other topics.  Other articles focus on traditions, specific cultures, and histories. Of the 34 articles,  23 are in Spanish, 10 are in English, one in French.

Results?  Well, I’d say that searchers content on finding/using something/anything, maybe Quick Search is okay.  But if your Latin American/Latin@ research really matters, and especially if you’re looking for research articles in Spanish, you’ll want and need to use HAPI.

Interlibrary Loan – shout out to my good colleagues in the Interlibrary Loan / ILL office.  It’s true we will not own every journal indexed in HAPI.  Few if any libraries across the nation do.   Just use our fabulous ILL services and you should have your article delivered to you – most likely via email – within a few days.

Finding HAPI – So, how do you find HAPI to recommend it to students & ISU colleagues?  Go to the eLibrary’s Article Indexes and Databases list, and you’ll find it listed there by name.  Give HAPI a whirl, and enjoy!!

Cookbooks at the Library – Or, Confessions of a Food Freak

Did you know that the Library has  a huge collection of cookbooks?  Thanks to the needs of the Hotel, Restaurant & Institution Management Program and a very dedicated former colleague of mine, you can find historic cookbooks, regional cookbooks, innumerable national cuisine cookbooks, as well as cookbooks that focus on specific techniques, ingredients, and much more.  Included in this glorious collection are plenty of excellent and informative cookbooks from US minority and ethnic groups.  It might sound strange but cookbooks are often good choices for learning about history, traditions, and cultural practices of people from across the world.  There’s a growing trend in fiction to combine history, stories, and recipes, perhaps initiated by Laura Esquivel’s famed Como agua para chocolate.  But there are so many foodies in the US that there’s a growing readership for non-fiction books about food that include a few recipes.  Genre bending aside, I could blog for a year non-stop and still not discuss every cookbook of interest, so here are just a few recent samples:

The Filipino-American Kitchen: Traditional Recipes, Contemporary Flavors, by Jennifer M. Aranas.
(TX724.5 P5 A73 2006)

Published in 2006, this lavishly illustrated cookbook includes careful ingredient lists, often listing translations and substitute ingredients, and easy-to-follow instructions.  As she details in her Foreword, author Jennifer Aranas was “born and raised in Chicago” but surrounded by Filipino culture and traditions.  She founded Chicago’s first Filipino-American restaurant, and calls Filipino cooking the “original fusion cuisine”:

  • “It is hard to resist the vibrant flavors of ginger and lemongrass, the glorious triumvirate we lovingly call sofrito (sautéed onion, garlic, and tomato), or the crispy crunch of egg rolls in various incarnations.  On the surface, Filipino food is entirely familiar.  Noodles, rice, stews, and stir-fries are neither new nor Filipino inventions. But the interplay of exotic flavors, balanced and harmonious, is uniquely Filipino and anything but ordinary.  … Modern Filipino cuisine is a collage of ethnicities starting with a native Malay base flavored with layers of Chinese, Spanish, and American accents.”

Puerto Ricans and other Latin Americans will certainly recognize sofrito, the basis of many a savory dish!  Recipes include Suman Nga Baboy (Steamed rice cakes with bacon & caramelized onions, wrapped in banana leaves); Pancit Guisado (Stewed Noodle Dish), Adobong Pato a la Monja (Duck adobo with pineapple and dates – looks like this preparation originally came from a convent – a la Monja means “in the style of nuns”); Pineapple and Cassava Tarts, Halo Halo (Filipino fruit sundae), and much more.  Check it out!!

Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens:  Indigenous Recipes & Guide to Diet and Fitness, by Devon Abbot Mihesuah.  (TX715 M6364 2005)

      Primarily a nutrition and fitness guide, with a good dollop of history, the cooking advice and recipes begin on page 113 of this 194-page book, and end on page 160.  Recipes included come from many different tribes, or feature well-known indigenous ingredients such as tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash.

Most recipes have been contributed by women and men from the Choctaw, Comanche, Osage, Dakota, Cree, Cherokee and Eastern Cherokee, Luiseño, and Seminole nations, along with a number of Mexican / Southwestern traditions, such as guacamole and salsa.

A number of the recipes include traditional preparation techniques, such as the recipe for Dakota Waskuya (Dakota dried sweet corn soup).  The ingredients are dried sweet corn and meat, with suggested meats being “venison, buffalo, elk, or beef.”  No quantities are listed, so you know this is a recipe for experienced cooks!

The preparation begins with instructions on how to dry boiled and shelled corn in the sun, a process that takes days and which the author frankly calls “labor-intensive.”  Much later when the corn is dried, it is cooked with the meat until tender.  For those interested in understanding traditional ways of preparing traditional foods, this book can provide some useful insights along with recipes.

Other interesting recipes include Ta-pashe (Osage pounded meat), Luiseño Weewish, Choctaw Banaha, and Wah-zha-zhe wa-dsiu-e cta-i-ge (Osage persimmon cakes), along with many recipes for game meat (venison, elk, buffalo), breads, and numerous vegetables.   I think I’m going to have to try Mamaw Helton’s creamed corn tonight!

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, by Jessica B. Harris
(TX 715 H29972 2011)

Here’s another very fascinating book that combines history and family stories with a few (maybe 20 tops?) recipes.  As a book review in the New York Times points out, Harris celebrates both home-style cooking and the “aspirational and omnivorous” traditions of   “Big House cooks who prepared lavish 

 banquets, caterers who created a culinary cooperative in Philadelphia in the 19th century, a legion of black hoteliers and culinary moguls and a growing black middle and upper class.”

Ms. Harris provides essays that detail the historic and cultural foundations of these two culinary traditions, beginning of course with chapters on African foods and ceremonies, the Middle Passage and the resulting profound influences of African food traditions on American food from the earliest days to the present.

Recipes (a number of which appeared in Harris’s earlier cookbooks, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent; TX725.A1 H284 1998, and The Welcome Table: African American Heritage CookingTX715 .H31443 1995)  begin on page 247 thru page 265, and include the glorious triumvirate of okra plus tomatoes plus fiery hot chili peppers as Sauce Gombo to be splashed atop rice; Summer Southern Succotash (again, tomatoes plus okra plus corn and those super hot peppers).

Side note:  You can’t help but notice the fusion of Latin American indigenous ingredients – xitomatl (tomatoes); chilli (chili peppers); elotl (corn) meeting up with Africa-native okra.

Nguba & xocolatl

We know the historic reasons for that fusion are the slave trade and Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the New World – Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America.  The slave trade brought foods from one part of the world to another, including the diffusion of these foods into European cuisines.  The mundane yet heavenly peanut butter cup, formerly advertised in the US as a marriage between peanut butter and chocolate, is a child of this same African-New World diffusion.  But I digress!

There’s also an interesting western cowboy stew called Son of a Gun Stew (note: an organ meat lover’s delight); the classic Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese, and several good recipes for greens.  This is obviously a good choice for learning about African American foodways, while Ms. Harris’s previous books mentioned above will be great choices for many, many more African and African American recipes.

Taking a quick break to go make dinner – thinking about Pastel de pollo, one of my own “go to” dishes… but before I head off, here’s how you can find cookbooks in our collections.

Take a look through our cookbook collections – you are sure to find something you’ll enjoy!  To find national or ethnic cookbooks, just go to Quick Search and type in cooking AND <group of choice>, as in…

  • cooking AND african
  • cooking AND french
  • cooking AND puerto rican
  • cooking AND korean

… and so on

Make sure you select BOOKS with Quick Search’s 1st drop-down menu.  You should be able easily to browse your results from there.  (Obviously, if you know the title of book you want, type that in Quick Search, as in…

  • mastering the art of french cooking
  • cocine a gusto
  • simple art of vietnamese cooking
  • african american kitchen
  • la cocina colombiana
  • kimchi chronicles

Call numbers will most likely begin with TX… and are housed on the Lower Level of Parks Library.  Enjoy!!

Piri Thomas – RIP/QPD. Punto.

Piri Thomas en El Barrio

Piri Thomas en El Barrio: Loisaida / Lower East Side NYC, 1970

Writer / poet  Piri Thomas, author of the urban autobiographical classic Down These Mean Streets, died October 17, 2011.  His was one of several leading voices that helped define the Nuyorican generation and literary movement of the 1960s-70s – Puerto Rican authors and poets born and raised in NYC ghettoes.

Piri was born and raised in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem), protected by a strong and loving Cuban-Puerto Rican family but also surrounded by intense poverty, racism, and discrimination.  In a 1995 interview with Carmen Dolores Hernández, Piri recalled:

“Yes, and what I noticed first when I came into my age of awareness -it left quite a trauma on me- was death. All around me I constantly heard fire engines because people were burning up in those old apartments, that were old when we Puerto Ricans got to them in the early 1900’s. The violence, the sirens, the police cars and the stories that you heard and the brutalities that you saw led you to arrive at the conclusion that we didn’t need police protection, what we did need was protection from the police.”  (http://www.cheverote.com/reviews/hernandezinterview.html)

Like many Latinos of his generation and since, Piri was forbidden to speak Spanish in school.  Like so many New York Puerto Ricans, he learned about an idyllic Puerto Rico through the stories of his mother, huddled in a cold New York apartment.  The oldest and darkest child in a multiracial Caribbean family, Piri faced a brutal racism outside the home that his white-skinned siblings did not know.  Piri grew up to become a teenage gangbanger and junkie.  He was arrested during an attempted armed robbery, and sentenced to 15 years in jail.  He served 7.


Trailer for Every Child Born a Poet

Like Malcolm X, jail time became a period of reflection and education for Piri.  He had long been a voracious reader, and recalled that in his early school years …

“… I had this beautiful, kind teacher introduce me to this beautiful, kind librarian in the 110th street library and I begged her to let me take out books from the library and they gave me two books to take out every time. I found that it wasn’t enough for me. I gobbled them up right away. Then I went to the library and got two books again but this time I picked three and put them under my jacket. I was coming out the library pregnant and I would walk in pregnant again.  Years later, when my book Down These Mean Streets became a success, I was invited to a conference in Connecticut on censorship because they were censoring my book along with others. I heard someone call me “Mr. Thomas” and I readily recognized her as the librarian that was letting me get away.  And she said “I was that librarian and I knew that you were taking those books and Oh! I was so glad because you were reading. I was more glad that you were bringing them back.”  (http://www.cheverote.com/reviews/hernandezinterview.html)

Down These Mean Streets

30th anniversary edition

Piri began writing his classic Down These Mean Streets while still in jail, and finished it after his release.  It was published in 1967 by Knopf.  He wrote numerous autobiographical works, short stories, and poems, but remains best known for his gritty blockbuster début.  Thank you, Piri – Rest in Peace / Que en Paz Descanse.  Punto.

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Here are some books, DVDs, & websites for learning more about Piri Thomas and early Nuyorican literature:

Thomas, Piri.  Down These Mean Streets.  New York: Vintage Books, 1997.  ISU LIB: General Collection F128.9 P8 T366d

Thomas, Piri.  Savior, Savior, Hold My Hand.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.   ISU LIB: General Collection F128.9.P85 T5.

Thomas, Piri.  Seven Long Times.  New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974.  ISU LIB:  General Collection HV9468 .T55

Thomas, Piri.   Sounds of the Streets.  Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2005.  (ISU LIB owns but for the life of me I can’t grab the URL today) 

Thomas, Piri.  Stories from El Barrio.  ISU LIB:  General Collection PZ7 T366s

The World of Piri Thomas (Official Website).  http://www.cheverote.com/ Accessed Oct. 21, 2011.

Hernández, Carmen Dolores.   Puerto Rican voices in English: Interviews with writers.  Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1997.  ISU LIB (ebrary ebook):  http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu:2048/lib/iowastate/docDetail.action?docID=5005024

Mohr, Eugene V.  The Nuyorican experience: literature of the Puerto Rican minority.  Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982.  ISU LIB: General Collection:  PS153.P83 M6 1982

Robinson, Jonathan Meyer, director.  Every Child is born a poet: The life & work of Piri Thomas.  Latino Public Broadcasting.  New Haven, CT: When in Doubt Productions, Inc., 2003. ISU LIB:  Media Collection DVD 002 044

More on eBooks: Collecting & Finding

I wrote recently about the Library’s new Patron-Drive Acquisition (PDA) program for acquiring eBooks for our library collections.  Lest you think that’s the only way we acquire eBooks, read on!

My bibliographer colleagues and I have intentionally been buying relevant eBooks for years to add to our collections.  Some of these include such titles as…

  • Latinos in a changing society
  • Indians of Iowa
  • Drug war zone: Frontline dispatches from the streets of El Paso and Juárez
  • Chicano students and the courts: The Mexican American legal struggle for education
  • African American folktales
  • Dream not of other worlds: Teaching in a segregated elementary school
  • Companion to African American philosophy
  • Critical cultural studies of childhood
  • My Germany: A Jewish writer returns to the world his parents escaped
  • Beyond the Latino World War II hero
  • Ioway in Missouri
  • Islamic education in the Soviet Union and its successor states
  • Making of a Black scholar
  • Multicultural American history: Through children’s literature
  • New York Ricans from the hip hop zone
  • El monstruo: Dread and redemption in Mexico City
  • Frontier forts of Ioa: Indians, traders, and soldiers, 1682-1862
  • King’s dream: The legacy of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech
  • Stories from the American mosaic: Native American folktales
  • Companion to US Latino literatures
  • Cristal experiment: A Chicano struggle for community control
  • Forgetful nation: On immigration and cultural identity in the United States
  • Latino American folktales
  • Latino/a canon and the emergence of post-sixties literature
  • Law touched our hearts: A generation remembers Brown v. Boar of Education
  • Migrant imaginaries: Latino cultural politics in the US-Mexico borderlands
  • None of the above: Puerto Ricans in the global era
  • Writing Indian nations: Native intellectuals and the politics of historiography
  • Artists from Latin American cultures
  • Brown and Black communication
  • Dominican Americans
  • From out of the shadows: Mexican women in twentieth-century America
  • Gender and the changing face of higher education: A feminized future?
  • Hispanic American religious cultures
  • Importing poverty? Immigration and the changing face of rural america
  • In the shadow of race: Growing up as a multiethnic, multicultural, multiracial
  • Mesoamerican worlds: Maya worldviews at conquest
  • Muslims in America: A short history
  • Native Americans today: Resources and activities for educators, grades 4-8
  • New Americans: Puerto Ricans in the United States
  • Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans
  • Rethinking the slave narrative
  • Working the boundaries: Race, space, and “illegality” in Mexican Chicago
  • American Indian chronology: Chronologies of the American mosaic
  • Becoming Black: Creating identity in the African diaspora
  • Buxton: A Black utopia in the heartland
  • Cesar Chavez: A biography
  • Contemporary Caribbean cultures and societies in a global context
  • Continental crossroads: Remapping US-Mexico borderlands history
  • Conversations with Mexican American writers
  • Dead subjects: Toward a politics of loss in Latino studies
  • From slavery to poverty: The racial origins of welfare in New York, 1840-1918
  • Irish in US:  Irishness, performativity, and popular culture
  • Issues in the Spanish-speaking world
  • Looking for lost lore: Studies in folklore, ethnology and iconography
  • Mexican mafia
  • On the Viking trail: Travels in Scandinavian America
  • Race and classification: The case of Mexican America
  • African, Native, and Jewish American literature and the reshaping of modernism
  • American Muslim women: Negotiating race, class and gender…
  • Racial attitudes in the 1990s: Continuity and change
  • Soviet Jewish Americans
  • World folklore: Corn woman: Stories and legends of the Hispanic Southwest
  • World we used to live in: Remembering the powers of the Medicine men
  • Black, Brown and Beige: Surrealist writings from Africa and the diaspora
  • Displacing whiteness: Essays in social and cultural criticism
  • Native American communities in Wisconsin, 1600-1960
  • Philosophers on race: Critical essays
  • West Indian Americans

abUSed – Postville, Iowa immigration raid (DVD showing)

Last Friday, I took the afternoon off as vacation to drive to Des Moines for a showing of abUSed, the new DVD documentary on the Postville, Iowa immigration raid tragedy.  It was being shown at the Catholic Relief Services, and featured a discussion panel comprised of film director Luis Argueta, Sonia Parras, the primary defense lawyer, and one of the local activists.   I highly recommend that you go out of your way to see this film if you hear of another showing in your area.

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The immigration raid on a Kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa remains the largest immigration raid in US history, resulting in the arrests of almost 400 workers, most of whom were of Guatemalan or Mexican descent.  The workers were immediately criminalized on charges of identity theft, and duped by government officials to sign away their rights.  Regardless of your views on US immigration policies, the film features testimonials from countless individuals – among them local teachers; priests, nuns, and Catholic lay workers; lawyers and federal judges; a fact-finding Jewish tribunal; federal congress representatives of the US National Hispanic Caucus; Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, and many eloquent arrested and deported workers, their broken families, and children – that clearly show that the rights of these workers (yes, undocumented workers do have rights) were systematically ignored and abused before, during, and after their arrests.  Long after the arrests and deportations, documented cases of physical abuse and rape of workers and widespread abuse of child labor laws began to emerge.

This powerful DVD is NOT currently in distribution or widely available for puchase.  (Yes, dear reader, good collector that I am, I did indeed acquire a personal copy of the DVD.  Before I had a chance to consider donating it to the Library, my husband promptly loaned it out to a friend.  I’m looking into acquiring an institutional copy but haven’t yet heard back.)

There is a bilingual trailer of the film available on YouTube, along with related interviews by Luis Argueta.  (Please do ignore the anonymous YouTube user diatribes that currently display on the page, along with links to other relevant clips.  Immigration is one of those issues that seem always to elicit uninformed commentary.  I’m sure not one of the commentors – pro or con – has seen the actual DVD.)

I’m working on acquiring the DVD for our collections.  Until then,to learn more about the film, or perhaps to learn of showings near you, you can view or join their Facebook page.  Powerful and unforgettable.

Update:  Now available:  Parks Library–Media Center PARKS Media Center: Media Collection (DVD 005 162)