All posts by Kelci Baughman McDowell

Banned Books and Intellectual Freedom

One of the pillars of the Library Bill of Rights set forth by the American Library Association is that “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” One way libraries get to do this is by observing and celebrating Banned Books Week, when we shine a light on books and works of literature that have been banned or challenged.

Last week, September 24 – 30, was Banned Books Week 2017. Gleeson Library partnered with the Department of English to do a readathon of The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks on Thursday, Sept. 28. Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” from The Bean Eaters, was banned in schools in Mississippi and West Virginia in the 1970s. The school districts banned the poem for the supposed sexual connotations of the word “jazz,” according to the listing of banned or challenged poetry. We also thought it was a good way to commemorate the centennial of Brooks’s birth.

Even though Banned Books Week 2017 is over, you can get in the spirit by watching our playlist of a selection of the poems we orated at the readathon last week.

Have you or your children read one of the top 10 banned or challenged books from the last couple years? How did you like being a #rebelreader? Leave a comment telling us about it!

Ignatian Literary Magazine Release Party

We still have a bit over a week to celebrate National Poetry Month. One way you can do that is by joining us to celebrate the release of the new issue of the Ignatian Literary Magazine!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

5:30 – 7 pm

Del Santo Reading Room, Lone Mountain 270


The celebration will feature:

• Readings by contributors to the new issue: Emma Thomason, Eric Mueller, Miiraf Arefeainen, Preeti Vangani, and others

• Keep sake poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day

• Gleeson’s traveling library of books curated by the Ignatian staff and available for check out

• Refreshments

• Good people and good times!

Letter Writing Party @ Gleeson Library

April is National Letter Writing Month, and here at the Library we want to kick it off on March 30 by giving you the chance to slow down, take time to write a letter, and produce a hand-written gift for someone. Letters and correspondence are cornerstones of library collections and archives, so why not participate in this lineage of history?

Thursday, March 30, 2017
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Group Study Area (2nd Fl), Gleeson Library | Geschke Center

Join us to write letters to your elected officials and/or residents of Freedom House, SFor, to someone in your life you care about. Gleeson Library will provide Write_On fine letter press stationery and postage. This is a great way to aim for political change and spread love in the world, all while developing the almost-lost art of letter writing and hanging out with some cool, like-minded peeps.

First 20 students to register online will receive a Party Pack at the event (online registration is not required to attend the event). Gleeson Library will provide stationery and postage for all attendees.

Register Here >>

Are you up for the challenge of writing 30 letters in 30 days? Join us to find out!


Heading photo by Rachael Ashe from Vancouver, Canada – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Book Reviews from Students

The following book reviews were written by student assistants in the Reference & Research Services Department here in the library. We hope they inspire you to pick up a good book!

nw1NW, reviewed by Brianna Cockett-Mamiya

Zadie Smith’s 2012 novel NW follows the lives of four different characters — Natalie, Leah, Felix, and Nathan — living in the northwest corner of London. NW is fascinating in a number of ways. For one, the novel plays with an experimental structure, being split up into four sections, each one taking on a different narrative form. Smith uses third person narrative, screen-play style dialogue, and one of my favorite section consists of 185 vignettes spanning across the life of one of the main characters, Natalie. The various forms throughout the novel may come off as scattered or a bit challenging, but I really enjoyed the unique structure. NW explores the themes of race, class, gender, and social mobility in a way that is really compelling. Although the characters all grew up in Caldwell, a council estate or housing project, they each stand on different steps of the social ladder. Each character is fleshed out so well that they come off as real people rather than likable characters. Not only does Zadie Smith write beautifully, NW shows that she is masterful at writing real people going through real social issues.

the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-waoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, reviewed by Ariana Varela

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz weaves multiple stories and cultures into this saga about immigration, identity, gender, and the idea of a “home.” The novel is told from the omnipresent narrator Yunior, a recurring character in Diaz’s works, who recounts the life of Oscar Wao, a nerdy Dominican-American who loves to read and write sci-fi novels. Wao’s family illustrates questions of identity and belonging in the context of inter-generational trauma and gender role modeling. The novel flashes back to his mother’s life in the Dominican Republic before immigrating to New Jersey, in where Diaz includes the history of the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship and U.S. involvement in the Dominican Republic, which helps ground the reader. This historical overview sets up the idea of the fukú or a curse placed on individuals in the DR due to the supernatural powers of corrupt dictators. This curse follows Wao’s family and is used to explain the family’s misfortune and continuous struggles. Both Oscar and his sister Lola are confronted with feeling like a stranger in the nation they grew up in, creating a constant search for home and origins. They are forced into navigating a split national identity. The multiple plots and complex characters make it hard to put this book down. This is a must read that will seize your imagination the way novels do, while also exposing the universal truths of the legacy of colonialism and the impact of immigration on family dynamics.

71yyrswjhlColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, reviewed by Brianna Cockett-Mamiya

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami was published in Japan in 2013 and the English translation was published in the U.S. in 2014. Through a third-person narrative, the novel follows thirty-six year old Tazaki who designs train stations in Tokyo. In high school, Tazaki had four best friends, and each had a color as part of their surnames (red, blue, white, and black), which they used as nicknames, leaving Tazaki the only “colorless” one. The group of friends stayed in touch after high school, but in Tazaki’s second year of college they suddenly cut ties with him without any explanation. Tazaki lacked a sense of belonging in the world and was truly colorless up until he starts dating Sara, who pushes him to confront his past. Following Sara’s advice, he seeks an explanation and closure by reuniting with each of his old friends, starting in his hometown of Nagoya and ending the journey in rural Finland, and what he finds is truly startling. Having read a few of Murakami’s works in the past, I can count this novel as one of my personal favorites. Magical realism is usually a style which is heavily used by Murakami, but in this work it is only hinted at. This slight touch of magical realism paired with the darkness which pervades the novel adds excitement and mystery to an already perplexing plot. The perspective of the novel, entirely focused on the protagonist, allowed me to feel deeply what he felt, and to empathize with his quest to find closure and a sense of belonging. Something I’ve noticed about Murakami’s work in the past is that his writing is a bit slow and takes time to get into, but, especially regarding this book, after you have gotten past a few chapters it is captivating and well worth the read.

Student Book Reviews

Looking for some reading recs? The Reference & Research Services student assistants have a few for you!

22738563We Should All Be Feminists, reviewed by Malia Okoh

Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is a slim volume containing an essay based on her 2013 TED Talk. The essay exposes Adichie’s experiences with racism growing up in Nigeria and how such situations affected her; furthermore, it hopes to convince readers that everyone should be a feminist, and gives reasons why. Considering feminism and gender inequality is such a pressing and prominent issue, it is fair to say that the essay is required reading for all ages, genders, and nationalities. We Should All Be Feminists possesses a theme that not only resides at the heart of feminism but also that all can agree with: absolute equality, which in itself is a reason to read Adichie’s work.

harry_potter_and_the_cursed_child_special_rehearsal_edition_book_coverHarry Potter and the Cursed Child, reviewed by Molly Creagar

Set 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child follows Albus, Harry’s middle child, as he begins his first year at the magical academy. Albus encounters immediate predicaments and befriends an unlikely candidate. Written in the style of an onstage play (because it is!), the story lends insight into the difficulties of following in someone’s footsteps. In Albus’s desire to be his own person, he creates troubles and danger—and it’s up to Rowling’s crew of old to save the wizarding world. I personally did not think this installment was up to the high standards set by the original seven books, though it would be hard to parallel those in any sense. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child indulges the wizard or witch in all of us and would be phenomenal to see performed.

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hrAll the Light We Cannot See, reviewed by Malia Okoh

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr centers around a blind French girl – Marie – who, during World War II, is forced to take refuge with distant relatives in a coastal city. Eventually, Marie’s path crosses with a German boy named Werner in 1944 when he saves her in more ways than one. This novel truly is a poignant and historically accurate depiction of a very personal experience concerning one of the world’s most famous wars.

41txhpda8qlA is for Alibi, reviewed by Molly Creagar

Old fans of Nancy Drew and Cam Jensen will fall in love with this series. Sue Grafton’s adventure through the alphabet with a 32-year-old private detective, Kinsey Millhone, is part mystery, part comedy, and wholly engaging. Kinsey, an ex-cop, is hired by a woman who has served time for murdering her husband but swears she was wrongly convicted. Kinsey’s investigation opens up many more questions that bring danger along with the answer. After reading this series’ debut, you won’t be able to quit until you reach Z.

Poetry Rare Book Pop-Up

Please join us from 12-1 pm on Thursday 4/28 in the library foyer for a rare book pop-up exhibit of small and fine press poetry books by female poets of the Beat Generation.

kandel collected 3
Lenore Kandel with a Siamese Cat

The center piece of the pop-up is Lenore Kandel’s The Love Book, which went on trial for obscenity here in San Francisco in 1967, and the associated newspaper clippings from the Chronicle.

There will also be books containing the work of Joanne Kyger, Diane di Prima, and Ruth Weiss on display.

The pop-up has been curated in conjunction with the Ignatian Literary Magazine’s feature on the female writers of the Beat Generation, which in turn inspired the National Poetry Month display in the library foyer.

We look forward to closing out National Poetry Month with a bang. Hope to see you there!