Posts Tagged ‘Ashlyn B.’s Picks’

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

October 20, 2014

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherThis is an amazing account of the life of photographer Edward Curtis. It begins in 1866 in Seattle, where Princess Angeline is living in a 2 room damp shack down among the piers. She is the oldest and last surviving child of the chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, and also the most famous person in Seattle, her image on china plates and other knickknacks sold to tourists of Puget Sound.

Seattle is also where Edward Sheriff Curtis runs a successful photography business. Curtis is sought out by politicians and wealthy patrons, but also trolley car drivers and sailors who have saved for a session in front of the camera.

Curtis eventually photographs Princess Angeline, first in a studio portrait, and then in Shantytown, where he captures her in her daily chores of digging clams and gathering mussels. Angeline tells of other Duwamish and Suquamish people living on the edge of the city and the Tulalip reservation to the north. He visits, even pays for access, and photographs them. This is the beginning of what becomes a lifelong endeavor of photographing all intact Indian communities left in North American before their way of life disappears.

This plan entails traveling the Southwest, the plains, the Rockies, the fjords of British Columbia and Washington State, northern California mountains and southern California desert, and the Arctic. Curtis gives up a successful photography studio in Seattle for this pursuit.

He is constantly broke and struggles to obtain backers as he continues documenting Native Americans as their numbers are plummeting. While America is laying down railroad lines and paving roads for automobiles, the Indians who wish to continue living as they always have, end up hiding from dominant ever encroaching culture (the government has banned many ceremonies and children are sent to boarding schools).

Even when Curtis presents his picture opera–Indians in hand-colored slides and film, accompanied by music–to sold out crowds at Carnegie Hall and Washington’s Belasco Theater, he still faces bankruptcy: a penniless state that follows him through the rest of his life.

When he completes Volume XX of The North American Indian in 1930, thirty years have passed since the onset of the project, and Curtis is sixty-one years old. Sadly, his book goes unnoticed after his death in 1952, but resurfaces in the 1970’s to great acclaim. The Curtis family set goes to the Rare Books Library at the University of Oregon, and a gallery devoted to the work of Curtis is in Seattle.

Thankfully, because of Edward Curtis’ steadfast dedication to record the Native American tribes’ way of life before its tragic demise, we have an immense photographic and written historical record. And because of Timothy Egan’s exhaustive research, we have a sense of what Edward Curtis went through to accomplish this great feat.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Jerusalem: a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

August 13, 2014

Jerusalem: a CookbookThis lovely book is not only a cookbook, but also a history book about the food of Jerusalem, and the friendship between the authors. Sami Tamimi is from the Arab east side of Jerusalem, while Yotam Ottolenghi grew up on the Jewish west side of Jerusalem. They did not know each other growing up, but met later in Tel Aviv, and then to London, where they became close friends and business partners. Throughout their book are stunning color photographs – a visual feast – not just of the mouth-watering dishes being discussed, but also of kitchens, marketplaces, cityscapes, and people relishing food.

Ottolenghi and Tamimi both grew up among people who used local ingredients and ate seasonally. Their recipes use tomatoes, okra, cauliflower, cucumbers, and beets, plus many more vegetables. Fruits include figs, lemons, pomegranates, apricots, and then there are herbs, nuts, dairy products, grains, beans, lamb, chicken, and fish. There are plenty of recipes here for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, and an added bonus is that the cover of this book is padded, therefore, easy to wipe off for those of us who are messy cooks.

Before providing the actual hummus recipes, the authors give us “Hummus wars”, an example of how they intertwine history and culture with the recipes.  “Political and nationalistic discussions about hummus — where it started and how; who was the first to crush the chickpeas and mix them with sesame paste and when — are almost compulsive. No one enjoys them anymore, but no one is ready to concede, either.”

I decided to make a batch using their recipe. I promise you that this recipe makes the best hummus you have ever made in your own kitchen. The same goes for the “Mejadra” recipe of brown lentils, onions, seeds and spices. The authors interject in this recipe, “The two of us can spend many pointless hours discussing what makes the best comfort food and why, but never seem to reach any kind of serious conclusion. Mejadra, however, is where the dispute ends. When served alongside Yogurt with cucumber or just plain Greek yogurt, the sweetly spiced rice and lentils strewn with soft fried onion is as comforting as it gets in Jerusalem.”

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have created a beautiful book that celebrates the food and culture of the city in which they grew up. It’s a book to be savored.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The End of the World As We Know It by Robert Goolrick

August 5, 2014

The End of the World As We Know ItThis is a heart wrenching book, but well worth reading. It is well written, and I am glad to know Robert Goolrick’s story since I’m a fan of his two novels, A Reliable Wife, and Heading Out to Wonderful.

This is a disturbing boy to man story that starts in the 1960’s in a small college town in Virginia. The story includes Robert’s older brother, younger sister, father (a professor), mother (a homemaker), and thankfully, his maternal grandmother Miss Nell, who was a strong and kind influence in his life. This true story – at times horrific, and at times, very funny – tells of a family living under a thin veneer of perfection that, in time, cracks and crumbles.

He tells of endless cocktail parties where his parents, preoccupied with appearances, strived to look like the perfect couple, wanting to be envied by their friends. In the meantime, the three children experience varying degrees of collateral damage and straight up abuse. Robert, hands down, gets the worst of it: cruelty from most of the adults in his life, and most tragically, sexual abuse by his father.

As an adult, Robert attempts suicide and ends up in “the loony bin”. He also starts cutting himself and gives pages of painful crimson red descriptions that show how his despair and emotional pain manifest themselves.

“How did they go on?” he asks as he lists memories that fill up eleven pages. “How did he do this?” I wondered while reading this book. How was he able to bare his soul about such painful memories? In a final section at the end of the book, “A Conversation with the Author”, Robert talks of writing this for past and current sexual abuse victims to help expose the reality of this epidemic.

Obviously, this is not an easy read, but it’s very well told, and is a hugely important story.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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