DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

What’s it like to be a professional dishwasher, or a tax collector for the IRS? What enormous pressures is a prison guard subjected to on a daily basis? What were the hotel staff laughing about while you were checking out last weekend? With these – and other – questions in mind, we assembled a list of 12 memoirs that will take you behind the scenes of 12 very different workplaces. You can click on the book covers or titles below to be taken into our catalog, or click here for the entire list.

Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States by Pete Jordan

This is the true story of a man on a mission: to clean dirty dishes professionally in every state in America. Part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery, it is the unforgettable account of the author’s transformation from itinerant seeker into “Dishwasher Pete” – unlikely folk hero, writer, publisher of his own cult zine, and the ultimate professional dish dog – and how he gave it all up for love.

Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the I.R.S. by Richard Yancey

Richard Yancey needed a job. He answered a blind ad offering a starting salary higher than what he’d made over the three previous years combined. The job? Field officer with the Internal Revenue Service. Yancey was brilliant at it. As a revenue officer, Yancey knocked on doors and made people pay. (Never mind that he couldn’t remember where he stashed his own tax records.) Yancey details how the job changed him, and how he managed to pull himself back from the brink of moral, ethical, and spiritual bankruptcy.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

In this book, Jahren recounts her childhood in rural Minnesota, with a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs. These early experiences led to a career as a paleobiologist, a role that takes her around the world, from the North Pole to Hawaii to Ireland. The core of her book is the story of the relationship she forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, a student who becomes her lab partner and best friend.

Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra by Jordan Fisher Smith

This is the story of Jordan Fisher Smith’s fourteen years as a park ranger on 48 miles of Sierra Nevada river canyons. Ranger work, in this place where wildness tends toward the human kind, includes encounters with armed miners who scour canyons for gold, drug-addled squatters, and extreme recreators who enjoy combining motorcycles, parachutes, and high bridges.

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon

Conlon, whose uncles, father, and grandfather were all police officers, and who becomes a NYPD officer himself after graduating from Harvard, paints a vivid portrait of the world of Big Apple law enforcement. Despite the fact that his father wanted something better for him, Conlon is irresistibly drawn to the force, and this book relates in thrilling, comic, tragic day-to-day details his ascent from beat patrolman to detective.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist, throwing herself into the fascinating world of death investigation – performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. This book, which chronicles her two years of training, takes you behind the police tape of the events large (the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587) and small (the individual murders, suicides, and accidents that are her stock-in-trade).

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover

In this book, author Ted Conover spends a year as a prison guard at New York State’s infamous maximum-security facility, Sing Sing. A gallery officer, Conover often has to supervise scores of violent felons – by himself. As he confronts the impossibility of doing his job by the book, he begins to develop the sense of balance between leniency and tyranny that defines a good prison guard. This is an excellent look at what prison life does to people on both side of the bars.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

Borchert, a longtime assistant librarian in a suburban Los Angeles library, pulls back the curtain on public library service and reveals a world overflowing with outsized, oddball personalities – on both sides of the desk.

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky

When Jacob Tomsky emerged from college with a philosophy degree, he didn’t intend to enter the hospitality business. Yet he did, becoming a valet parker for a luxury hotel in New Orleans. Ten years later, Tomsky was still in the industry and had worked his way around and through the hotel world. In this book, you are provided a backstage look at what lies beneath the surface of hospitality.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Doughty, the blogger behind the popular web series Ask a Mortician, describes her experiences working at a crematory. In addition to detailing her day-to-day experiences – sweeping ashes from the machines, caring for bodies of all shapes and sizes – Doughty unearths and details the sometimes weird history of cremation and undertaking.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

Reichl, a former restaurant critic at the New York Times and once the editor-in-chief of Gourmet, recounts her visits to some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants, where she often dined both as herself and – in disguises involving wigs, makeup, and credit cards under assumed names – anonymously.

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

Author Bill Buford had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook before he decided to answer a question that ate at him every time he prepared a meal: How would his skills measure up in a professional kitchen? Buford seizes the opportunity to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, and this book is the story of his time spent under Batali’s tutelage and of his apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy.

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Picture books about immigration and refugees allow us to experience the feelings of fear, courage, and hope that are part of the journey from one’s homeland to a new country. In these 11 picture books, young protagonists find themselves leaving old lands and journeying to new ones, where hope and promise live side-by-side with memories of what has been left behind.

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold

Award-winning author-illustrator Faith Ringgold offers a timely look at the diverse makeup and backgrounds of the American people and celebrates the country’s diverse immigrant heritage. Ringgold’s poetic text and vibrant art affirm the message that diversity enriches us all.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Other students laugh when Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela, introduces himself. But later, he meets Angelina and discovers that he is not the only one who feels like an outsider. A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world.

Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay

A young boy named Mustafa has traveled a long way to this country from his old one, where the trees were dusty and gray and there was not a lot of extra food. Here, he visits a park near his new home and finds beautiful flowers, ladybugs, fall leaves, and finally, a friend.

Islandborn by Junot Díaz

Lola was just a baby when her family left the Island. When she has to draw it for a school assignment, she asks her family, friends, and neighbors about their memories of her homeland. However, their memories of home are not all happy – there is also a remembrance of struggles.

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

When Juan Felipe Herrera was very young, he picked flowers, helped his mama feed the chickens, slept under the starry sky, and learned to say goodbye to his amiguitos each time his migrant family moved on. When he grew up, he became a poet. This beautifully illustrated poem encourages children to imagine all that they might one day be.

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

A Japanese-American man recounts his grandfather’s journey to America, which he later undertakes himself. He also describes the feeling of being torn by a love for two different countries. The immigrant experience has rarely been so poignantly evoked.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

In warm, sparkling prose that moves easily from English to Spanish and back, Caldecott Honor artist Morales traces the journey that she and her small son took in 1994, when they emigrated from Mexico to the United States. Many books about immigration describe the process of making new friends and fitting in; this one describes what it’s like to become a creative being in two languages, and to learn to love in both.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

This beautiful tale about a father and son’s fishing trip in Minneapolis shows the interconnectedness of family. The story, told from the boy’s perspective, begins when his father wakes him before dawn. Although the child enjoys the outing as a special adventure, they are fishing for food, not sport. The quiet time together provides opportunities for the father to talk about his long-ago life in Vietnam.

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias

A child fleeing conflict walks across the desert, recalling the home he left behind and promising to return to it someday. As he walks, the simple and poetic text brings readers along on this heartbreaking journey: “I walk, and my footsteps leave a trace of ancient stories, the songs of my homeland, and the smell of tea and bread, jasmine and earth.”

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? In this beautiful, powerful book, a mother and her two children set out on such a journey – a journey filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope for what lies ahead.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The story recounts the author’s great-grandmother’s arrival in this country from Eastern Europe. Her dress and babushka become part of a quilt that is been handed down from generation to generation. This book is most notable for the family traditions and the changes that it describes, and for the intergenerational love it portrays.

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Afrofuturism is an art form that allows black people to see themselves in the future despite a sometimes distressing past and present. Through these science fiction and fantasy works, authors re-imagine the past and generate box-breaking black life in the future. We’ve put together a list of eleven titles featuring black characters living in fictional universes brimming with magic, technology, and time travel.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

A timid thirteen-year-old girl undertakes a dangerous quest into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.

Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

Larkin describes the broken world of 2032, as war racks the North American continent and a religious crusader becomes president.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The sole continent of the earth is threatened by murder, betrayal, a super-volcano, and overlords who use the planet’s power as a weapon.

The War With the Mein by David Anthony Durham

The ruler of an idyllic empire hides the truth from his four children, until an assassin from the Mein, an exiled race, strikes him down and frees his children.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zâelie and her family fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

After the rich abandon the city, those without money must adopt the old ways of farming, barter, and herb lore. Then the moneyed return seeking a harvest of bodies.

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

This collection of short stories includes the novella, “Bloodchild,” a parable about the treatment of women throughout history.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

Journeying to Bellona, where only criminals and madmen remain, The Kid wonders at the strange portents that appear in the city’s cloud-covered sky.

47 by Walter Mosley

In 1832, a 14-year-old slave meets Tall John, who teaches him magical science and the meaning of freedom.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

The only one of her kind ever invited to study at Oomza Uni, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy, Binti uses her intellect to fight for herself and her people.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

A con artist masquerading as a street musician meets a wealthy man intent upon opening a portal to another dimension.

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Nov 2 2018

All’s Well That Ends Welles!

by Scot L

When you think of Orson Welles, what comes to mind? Citizen Kane? The commercials for Paul Masson wine? His final screen performance, as the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie? Although 46 productive years separate his celebrated screen debut in Kane (“Rosebud …”) and his final line (“Destiny … You cannot destroy my destiny …..”) as a cartoon robot, the time between is a dead zone to many. Yet those years were filled with memorable performances and directorial achievements that are all the more impressive for the financial and logistical challenges Welles faced in making them.

Today, Netflix begins streaming a recently completed version of The Other Side of the Wind, a project Welles worked on intermittently throughout the 1970s. Originally intended to be shot quickly, Welles almost immediately encountered a series of delays that would bring any other production to a permanent halt. Josh Karp relates this bizarre and inspiring story in Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind. But what about Welles’s other movies? We’ve put together a list of 10 movies for your next Orson Welles Movie Marathon that will help you connect the dots between Charles Foster Kane and Unicron.

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

Welles’s film debut is perennially touted as the Best Movie Ever, but don’t let that stop you from watching it – it’s a blast. Welles stars as the enormously wealthy and magnificently unhappy Charles Foster Kane, whose dying word (“Rosebud”) prompts a journalist’s search for the meaning behind the word.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel, Welles’s second film chronicles the precipitous decline of a wealthy Midwestern family. Subjected to grotesque studio edits after completion, the movie is an example of mutilated greatness – and makes any viewer wonder what Welles’ unspoiled vision of the film would have been.

The Stranger (1946)

In Welles’s third directorial effort, Edgar G. Robinson plays a war crimes investigator on the trail of a fugitive Nazi war criminal (Welles) who has integrated himself into the life of a small New England town.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Welles wrote, directed, and starred in this twisty tale of murder gone wrong. He plays a lusty sailor who finds himself drawn into the orbit of a disabled attorney and his wife (played by Welles’ then-wife, Rita Hayworth). Agreements to stage a murder are made; confessions are signed; actual murders are committed. The movie’s smashing climax – set in a mirror maze – more than adequately reflects the labyrinthine plot.

Macbeth (1948)

Shot in 23 days, this is Welles’s first cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare.

Othello  (1951)

Welles’s second adaptation of Shakespeare took a little longer – around three years – to complete. Shot in Morocco and Italy, Welles addressed the many logistical and financial problems he faced by pumping his own money into the production. The Criterion edition owned by the library contains the European and US versions of the film.

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Criterion rewards the Welles fanatic again with its three-disc edition of this film. It’s the story of an American smuggler who is hired by a mysterious billionaire (Welles) who claims he cannot remember his past. The smuggler’s job? To investigate that past. The only problem is, the people he talks to begin ending up dead.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Thrilling, sleazy, and endlessly entertaining,  Welles’s next film opens in a Mexican border town. A bomb is planted on a car; the car drives across the border; the car goes boom. Welles – painfully bloated – stars as the corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, while Charlton Heston portrays Mexican drug enforcement officer Miguel Vargas. (Chew on that for a bit.)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Regarded by some as the crowning achievement of Welles’s career, the film was originally released in 1967 and then forgotten about. Long available only in pirated editions, Criterion’s spiffy DVD release of Welles’s third full-length Shakespearean adaptation – it incorporates elements of both Henry IV plays, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor – is marvelous and well worth the wait. Welles stars, in a heartbreaking turn, as Falstaff.

F Is For Fake (1975)

Welles’s last completed film was originally intended to be a documentary about the professional art forger Elmyr de Hory. It is that, and so much more – what that more is, we will leave as a surprise for you.

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With Halloween approaching, your children may be asking for spooky stories. While some younger readers love thrills and chills, others are more sensitive to things that go bump in the night. If you’re looking for a gentle scare, we’ve put together a list of 13 books that provide safe places for children to learn about the world and their own emotions.

Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat by Nick Bruel

A group of monsters shows up on Bad Kitty’s doorstop. Kitty is scared until she decides to take matters into her own paws!

Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin

Farmer Brown doesn’t like Halloween, so he draws the shades and climbs into bed. However, the barnyard animals have other ideas. Big surprises are in store for Farmer Brown!

Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant

Herbert is worried about his first Halloween – but with help from his dad, a special tiger costume, and some roaring practice, Herbert finds confidence on Halloween night.

How to Scare a Ghost by Jean Reagan

Want to know how to scare a ghost? This book will provide young readers and listeners with all the tips they need to lure in and frighten a phantasm!

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo by Helen Lester

It’s Halloween, and Tacky the Penguin’s friends have prepared the scariest igloo in the Arctic. It’s the best Halloween ever, until a a group of ghostly hunters show up demanding treats. How will Tacky save the day?

Duck & Goose, Honk! Quack! Boo! by Tad Hills

Duck and Goose go trick-or-treating, but what will they do when they hear a swamp monster is looking for them?

Fright School by Janet Lawler

In this story, school-age zombies, ghouls, and ghosts learn how to scare trick-or-treaters. But what in the world scares monsters?

The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael by Bonny Becker

When the Thirteen bus pulls up one stormy evening, Michael boards it despite some grave misgivings. Creepy and funny, with a surprise twist!

It’s Halloween, Chloe Zoe! by Jane Smith

It’s Halloween, but one house is way too frightening to visit. With the help of her friends and her dad, Chloe Zoe finds the courage to discover what treat is behind its foreboding front door!

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating by Laura Gehl

Peep can’t wait to go trick-or-treating, but Egg thinks Halloween is too scary! What will convince Egg to brave the night?

Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween by Rubin Pingk

Yukio loves Halloween and his sister loves him. When Yukio carves a pumpkin, Kashi carves one much like it. When Yukio maps out his evening, Kashi’s map looks veeery similar. Upset, Yukio says some things he doesn’t really mean. What can save their Halloween?

Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting

In this atmospheric book, mysterious green eyes watch from the darkness as trick-or-treaters pass by. But to whom – or what – do the eyes belong?

Halloween Good Night by Rebecca Grabill

In this rhyming bedtime story, werewolves, witches, zombies and other cuddly monsters will help you count down the minutes until bedtime.

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The baseball season allows fans of the game to keep one foot planted in summer. The only problem is, once the final pitch of the World Series is thrown, they are suddenly cast out of that hot, sunny season and left standing at the threshold of winter. Looking for a way to prolong the season’s afterglow just a bit longer? We’ve assembled a list of 16 books to help you better enjoy the postseason.

The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville

Babe Ruth was the biggest performer on the biggest stage of his time. Montville explores the facts, as well as the myths and legends, of the man some claim saved baseball after the Black Sox Scandal.
 
 
 

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski

Buck O’Neil, the breakout star of Ken Burn’s famous baseball documentary, was a friend and teammate of Satchel Paige, as well as a historian and advocate of the game. He and Posnanski traveled America in search of his baseball history.
 
 
 

In the Time of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me by Lang Whitaker

A devoted fan’s perspective on the Braves’ long run of championships and heartbreak.
 
 
 
 

Rickey And Robinson: The True, Untold Story About The Integration Of Baseball by Roger Kahn

Any Roger Kahn baseball book deserves attention. In this work, Kahn delves into the efforts of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson to integrate major league baseball.
 
 
 

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

A more nuanced portrayal than once could be found of the first great Georgia-born baseball player.
 
 
 
 
 

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

The story of the 2003 Oakland A’s, whose groundbreaking front-office practices took the team to the postseason despite a limited payroll. Brad Pitt played the lead in the movie.
 
 
 
 

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig

Eig’s book is an in-depth look at the quiet superstar who resided in Babe Ruth’s shadow for most of his career.
 
 
 
 

Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game by George Vecsey

A solid, one-volume history of the game. The Louisville Courier Journal said “This book is an instant classic – a highly readable guide to America’s great enduring pastime.”
 
 
 
 

Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson

A powerful account of the history of the Negro Leagues and the conditions under which the games were played.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Click here for the rest of the list and you’ll be taken into our catalog, where you can view (and request!) one (or more!) of these books.

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Oct 15 2018

Are You Sleeping?

by Dea Anne M

Thomas Edison famously referred to sleep as “an absurdity” and “a bad habit.” Of course, one could argue that the advent of artificial light disrupted our natural sleep patterns forever for good or ill. Certainly, when I was coming along in college and then further along in my working life, the general consensus was that if one was faced with an overloaded schedule, sleep was naturally the first thing to go. My friends and I bragged about how little sleep we were getting. That seems ridiculous to me now but at the time it seemed like a badge of honor – proof positive that our lives were full, rich and interesting. Don’t even get me started on the epic battles my parents had with me about my more than reasonable bedtime. Small children need their sleep but to me it just didn’t seem fair.

My current thinking on sleep and its importance diverges wildly from Edison’s as well as my younger selves. I make sleep a priority these days and I find that the much touted eight hours a night is just about perfect for me. Of course, some people really do fine on less and then there are folks who need quite a bit more. Model, Heidi Klum says that she sleeps 10 hours a day and LeBron James reportedly needs a full 12 hours. Personally, I find that enough sleep eases stress, keeps my appetite stable, makes exercise more satisfying…in short life is just more fun!  My 25 year old self would say…”How can it be more fun? You’re asleep…you’re missing so much!” To that self I say now, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” My five year old self  would say “But…why?” and, of course, the proper reply to that is “Because I said so. Now go to bed!”

Current research indicates that sufficient sleep helps with metabolism, memory and concentration, and athletic performance. As well, it might decrease your risk of heat attack, stroke and diabetes.

Are you someone who needs help getting the sleep that you know you need or are you someone just interested in learning more about the fascinating (and in many ways still mysterious) world of sleep? Never fear! Either way, DCPL has got you covered.

In recent years, the most visible person lending face and voice to the importance of sleep is Arianna Huffington. Huffington, who has provoked plenty of controversy through the years, is probably best known as the co-founder of the Huffington Post (now known as HuffPo) the news and opinion website. A few years ago, Huffington was your typical high achieving go-getter and sleep was in no way a priority. Then one day exhaustion finally laid its claim. She collapsed at her desk and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. Much has changed since then and Huffington is a true believer in the power of sleep. Check out her book The Sleep Revolution: transforming your life one night at a time and find out how you too can benefit.

But wait! There’s more! Try these titles too for more about the importance of sleep and how you can reap its rewards.

Nodding Off: the science of sleep from cradle to grave by Alice Gregory

Sleepyhead: the neuroscience of a good night’s rest by Henry Nicholls

The Sleep Solution: why your sleep is broken and how to fix it by W. Chris Winter

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Wild Nights: how taming sleep created our restless world by Benjamin Reiss

So tonight, do yourself a favor and…go to bed already!

Also, of course, sweet dreams.

 

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Sep 6 2018

Unlikely Friendships

by Camille B

We’ve probably all heard the expressions, fighting like cats and dogs, or being as scared as a mouse. These popular sayings are most likely derived from the knowledge that many species generally do not get along well together. As a matter of fact the entire premise for the cartoon, Tom & Jerry is based on it–a cat and mouse who fight and torment each other at every chance they get.

Lions and zebras, bear and fish, foxes and rabbits–alongside each other these animals are seen for the most part as predator and prey–left together for any period of time, one can quickly become food to the other.

The book Unlikely Friendships puts this theory to the test with true stories of animals who you’d never expect to be friends under any circumstances. Jennifer Holland, science writer and author of the book says, “It is about animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways and thrive on the warmth, closeness, and trust that come with being true friends.”

While reading some of the stories in this book, I was totally fascinated by one in particular about a 230 pound ape called Koko who is taught to communicate in American Sign Language, and who asks for a cat for her birthday after being read the stories “The Three Little Kittens” and “Puss in Boots.” Not satisfied with just a stuffed animal, she is finally allowed to choose from a litter of abandoned kittens. Koko calls her new friend “All Ball.”

I cannot begin to fathom how a gorilla would befriend a cat, but Koko does so with ease, treating Ball as gently as she would one of her own babies. When asked if she loved her little Ball, she signs to her teacher “Soft, good, cat.”

I was curious for an explanation to all of this. What would make a snake befriend a hamster? Or cause a golden retriever to be fascinated by a fish? Why would a tiger cub want to take care of orangutan babies or an elephant become pals with a stray mutt?

Holland, narrates each of the stories in the book, explains, “Sometimes there are plausible scientific explanations: an orphan seeking comfort from an older animal; an adult yearning for a younger creature to nurture, as in the case of the lioness who befriended and protected a baby oryx- unexpected, but not inexplicable. Sometimes a friendship is about need, as in the case of the blind Lab and her “seeing-eye” cat. But sometimes it’s just a lovely mystery, like the story of Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise, two notoriously surly creatures who became bosom buddies.”

In another book “Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: what animals can teach us about the social origins of tolerance and friendship” the author Jeffrey Masson conducts an experiment to try and determine if several different species- some, natural enemies- raised together from an early age could live peacefully side by side. He takes into his home seven young animals- a kitten, rabbit, two rats, two chickens, and a puppy- and sets about observing the process of socialization.

Says Masson, “At first the animals displayed typically what was expected of them, but as time went by and they began to adapt to their environment, they began to change in startling ways, I wondered then, can animals, including humans, truly change when direct experience tells them it’s safe to do so?”

Is it true? Can we learn a thing or two about relationships and peaceful coexistence from animals? If they can get along, how much more should we be able to no matter what our differences.

Unlikely Friendships is truly a lighthearted and entertaining read, guaranteed to be enjoyed, whether you’re an avid animal lover or not.

Each story reveals the true power of friendship and, to some degree, the many forms of “love” that seems to exist in the animal kingdom. Yes, scientists might scoff at that notion, but readers may feel a little differently about the world after they finish this book.” – Jennifer Holland

DCPL carries both books in its Library System.

Unlikely Friendships: 47 remarkable stories from the animal kingdom/ Jennifer Holland

Raising the peaceable kingdom: what animals can teach us about the social origins of tolerance and friendship / Jeffrey Masson

 

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Jul 25 2018

Having The Conversation

by Camille B

“Hey Dad, how’s the game? Oh, and do you want to be buried or cremated? And how much money are you leaving me?”

As I read these words in a CBS’s MoneyWatch article, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. Even though the underlying tone was a somber one, I couldn’t help but imagine the look of horror on the father’s face at his son’s question. It did, however, make me stop to think about how I would broach a subject like this myself if I had to.

In a nationwide survey, ninety-percent of people who responded said that they knew they should have a talk with a family member about end-of-life care and becoming power of attorney- but only 30 percent of them actually had. Some of the reasons given were: their loved-one wasn’t sick yet, the subject made them uncomfortable, they didn’t want to upset their loved-one, or the time just never seemed right.

But research has shown it can be equally upsetting for grieving family members who are left behind with no clear directives to follow. In this situation, they are now unsure of whether they’re fulfilling their loved-one’s last wishes or not- not to mention the family spats and arguments that can erupt out of nowhere. 

Let’s face it, family members don’t always behave the way we expect them to behave.  The passing of a loved-one can bring out the worse in some of them. Having no will in place only complicates matters, leading to all sorts of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided.

You now have children, stepchildren, first wife, second wife, uncle Ed and cousin Fred, all in line trying to sort through family possessions with no clear guidelines as to who gets what if anything at all, igniting family feuds that could sometimes take years to resolve.  

It’s not enough that Ma said she’d leave you her designer handbags. If it’s not stated in a will it’s fair game for Aunt Rachel and all of your cousins. Even though a verbal agreement is legally binding you may still have to prove it in court. Put it in a will and make sure that the will is current. As one person rightly puts it, “A will is your chance to end the argument before it begins.”

Well, you say, I’m an only child, so no drama for me. But it’s more than material possessions and who gets what. As our parents get older it brings to the forefront their quality of health and end-of-life concerns as well, not to mention the financial considerations that go along with them. Do they have a living will or advance directive? Who has power of attorney if they are no longer able to make important decisions for themselves?

So what’s the best way to go about having this conversation without seeming insensitive or rude? Or worst yet, like you’re after money? Here are some ways that experts say work best:

  • First of all, let them know your intentions are honorable, and you don’t have any ulterior motives. You’re inquiring because you’re concerned. If anything should happen to them you’d want to honor and respect their last wishes and do things the way they would have wanted it done. Be sensitive in your approach remembering that you’re dealing with two very unpleasant subjects-death and finances.
  • Make sure the timing is right. You don’t want to bring up the subject right after someone’s funeral, especially if it’s a friend of theirs. Maybe you can casually mention it in passing one day-that you were thinking about drawing up a will of your own, letting this open the doorway for discussion. It doesn’t have to be all at once. A vseries of small conversations over a period of time can work as well.
  • Discuss your intentions with your siblings ahead of time.  Get their input if you can do it without argument or discord. You may not agree on every single detail, but your overall intentions for your parents’ well-being should be the same. Take one of them along with you if this works. Sometimes the person that the parent relates to best can make them more open and receptive to talking about a difficult subject.
  • Gather as much information ahead of time as you can so that you can put them at ease if they have questions. You may also need to assist them with finding the proper documents and paperwork to begin and complete the process.
  • Include in your concerns: whether or not they have a will, if they have power of attorney, advance healthcare directives, an authorized user on their bank account if a family member needs to access funds to cover expenses such as medical care, nursing home, and funeral arrangements.
  • Listen to what they have to say, giving them time to think things over that they’re not sure about. Don’t coerce them into signing documents and paperwork that they’re not comfortable with. Remember that the end result of all of this should bring them peace of mind, not cause further worry or anxiety as to whether or not they’re doing the right thing.
  • When you think that you have everything in place, set up a meeting (or series of meetings) with a lawyer to have a will drawn. Even if your loved-one has a simple estate with no property or no real investments, you can still create a legally binding will yourself using software from NOLO.com .

And if all of this seems a bit overwhelming for you and your loved one, The Five Wishes document is another avenue you can take to securing a will. It is an advance directive created by the non-profit organization Aging with Dignity, and currently meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states and the District of Columbia. More people have used this document for their living will or advance directive than any other document.

It is popular because of its simplicity and everyday language. It helps you to express your wishes in the areas that matter most. The person you want to make care decisions for you when you can’t; the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want; how comfortable you want to be; how you want people to treat you, and what you want your loved ones to know.

So it may not be one of the easiest conversations to have, but financial advisers say that the conversation with your parents is one of the best things you can do for them and for yourself. And the earlier you do it the better.

Here are other helpful books on the subject matter that you can find in the DCPL system.

The everything guide to caring for aging parentsKathy Quan

Quick & Legal Will Book– Clifford Dennis

The Conversation: a revolutionary plan for end-of-life care– Angelo Volandes

Caring for our parentsHoward Gleckman

Caring For Your Parents: the complete AARP guideHugh Delehanty

The Power of Attorney Handbook– Edward Haman

 

 

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We are bombarded every day with news stories that can be sometimes disheartening or just plain depressing, so you could agree that it’s refreshing when you stumble across one that makes you smile and gives you a good feeling inside.

Michaela DePrince’s life story is one such, rekindling hope and courage within the human spirit and touching even the most calloused of hearts.  It’s a story of triumph over tragedy for anyone who’s ever had to face seemingly insurmountable odds or told they were less than for whatever reason, be it color, race, gender, ethnicity or handicap.

Though it reads like a fairy tale, Michaela would be the first to tell you that it’s not.  As you read her memoir you realize that her story is one of dedication, perseverance and survival. Born in Sierra Leone in 1995, during the country’s bloody civil war, her given birth name then was Mabinty Bangura. After losing both parents at the age of three (her father to the war and her mother to illness), Michaela is placed in an orphanage where she is faced with harsh and sometimes inhumane treatment by the women there, mostly because of her unusual skin pigmentation condition called vitiligo. They believed that the white spots on her dark skin were evil or a curse, and she was soon labeled “the Devil Child.”

It is hard to imagine, but the kids at the facility were ranked in order of favoritism. “They ranked us,” said Michaela. “Like number one was the favorite child and number 27 was the least favorite…I was number 27.” For her, being last on the list meant that she was the last child to get food at dinner, the last to receive clothing etc.

She quickly became friends with another little girl, number 26, whose name was also Mabinty, and who had found herself at the bottom of the “special” list because she was left-handed and wet the bed. Together, the two Mabintys shared a grass mat to sleep on at bedtime, their rice at mealtime and, since they were always blamed for everything anyway, decided to both take the blame so they could have their time-out together.

There were many days when, teased by the other children and missing her parents, Michaela would sit at the orphanage’s gate and cry. It was on one of these occasions that a gust of wind blew a page from a magazine up against the gate. It was a dance magazine depicting the picture of a beautiful woman in a pink tutu and pink slippers. She said that what she remembered most about the photo was how happy the woman looked. “It was not just the fact that she’s a ballerina,” said Michalea. “It’s that she looks happy. And I wanted to be happy. If what she was doing made her happy, that’s what I wanted to do.”

The next day, her teacher explained that the woman in the photo was a famous ballerina, and Michaela wanted to know if she too could one day become a ballerina, to which her teacher replied yes. If she took lessons, worked hard and practiced every day, it was definitely possible.

It was not long after that the children learned that people from America were coming to adopt some of them. Her friend, number 26, was one of the lucky ones. An American family chose her and sent her an album of photos. But no-one was coming for number 27. There was actually little hope that she would ever be adopted because of her skin condition. “Why would somebody want to adopt the Devil’s Child?” they said.

Across the sea in New Jersey, Elaine DePrince and her husband Charles were getting ready to adopt. They had previously adopted three American boys who tragically, all had died of AIDS from contaminated blood. Even though they were devastated, Elaine did not let that stop her from opening her heart and home to another child who needed a family. She and her husband made preparations to adopt Mabinty. What they didn’t know was there were two of them. Elaine was surprised when she got a call from the adoption agency asking, “Which Mabinty are you adopting? We have two of them.”

She was told that twelve different families had refused to take the other Mabinty because of her vitiligo. She did not hesitate. “We’ll take her,” she said. “I really don’t have a problem with spots, after dealing with AIDS.”

She remembers getting to Africa to adopt the two 4-year-olds, and meeting an angry, almost defiant Number 27. “She was standing there with her arms folded really angry. I think… she just thought there was gonna be more rejection ahead for her.” Michaela also recounts the moment when Elaine took both their hands and said to them, “I’m your new mama.”

It would have been rather difficult to have two Mabintys, so Elaine re-named both girls after her late son Michael who had encouraged her and Charles to adopt in Africa. Number 26 became Mia Mabinty DePrince and number 27 became Michaela Mabinty DePrince.

Michaela now felt closer to her dream, and one of the first things she did was to show her new mother the page from the magazine that she still had with her. “I couldn’t believe that I had adopted an orphan from Africa who wanted pointe shoes!” Elaine laughed. “I had to promise her she could dance.”

And she kept that promise, signing both girls up for ballet lessons. Michaela took it seriously from day one, and even at a young age was said to be laser-focused on becoming a professional ballerina, even with all the obstacles that were going to come her way–the first being her skin condition. At her first show she was terrified that people could see her spots from the audience, and felt that if they were able to, in her child’s mind, it meant the end of her dancing. She asked her new mother to see if she could see the spots from the audience and Elaine told her that from where she sat it just looked like pixie dust. Michalela’s response was, “Oh good. Now I can be a professional ballerina.”

Even after that, it was still and uphill battle, as she was still faced with obstacles and prejudices because of the color of her skin. She had never known anything about racial intolerance but quickly learned, when she experienced it not just in the neighborhood around her but in the world of ballet as well. In one instance, a teacher whose opinion meant a lot to her said to her mother, “We don’t like to waste a lot of time, money, and effort on the black girls. When they reach puberty, they develop big thighs and behinds and can’t dance ballet anymore.”

But for every person that put Michaela down, there was someone there waiting with an encouraging word, to help her keep her head up. The following week another teacher told her. “If you keep working hard, I don’t see any reason why you can’t one day become a world-class dancer.”  So with focus, hard work, practice and dedication, she persevered, not allowing the racism, jealousy and bigotry to break her spirit. “The only way I could survive,” she says. “Was to prove everybody wrong.” And this is exactly what she did.

Today Michaela dances classical ballet. After studying at the American Ballet Theatre at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, in New York, she moved up the ranks, joining first the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2012, then the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company in 2013 and finally the Dutch National Ballet where she was promoted to coryphée in 2015, and to grand sujet at the beginning of 2016. She is presently a soloist for the Dutch National Ballet.

Michaela was featured in an award-winning documentary by Bess Kargman called First Position, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, as well as a dancer in Beyonce’s album Lemonade. She has also been an ambassador for War Child since 2016, an organization which helps children living in war zones. Together with her mother, she has written the memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina as well as a children’s book Ballerina DreamsBoth books, as well as the documentary First Position, can be found in the DCPL library system, where you can read more about her remarkable journey.

First Position- DVD

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