Category Archives: Books

Merry Christmas from San Francisco

To wish you a Merry Christmas from USF Library I share some season’s greetings from the Rare Book Room.

Christmas in California
by Edward Rowland Sill
printed for Caroline and Hudson Poole by John Henry Nash, 1928

San Francisco at Christmas
by Sherwood Anderson
printed for Eleanor Anderson by Ted Lilienthal at Quercus Press, 1941
(excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle, 1939)

I am asked to write a little paean to Christmas, for peoples of San Francisco.  Christianity as a system of thought, of feeling. Time to remember what it's all about.  Oscar Wilde said there had been some Christians before Christ, but none since.  A man is half tempted to believe that, realizing all this is going on in a bitter, bitten world.  Killings, brutally adopted by governments as a system of government, men aplenty here, in our own rich fat land going hungry, men unable to get that thing any decent man most wants, a job, a chance to work and be a man, to stand on his own feet, as a man.  Christianity, as we get it, too much and too often just an abstract thought. "I'll give it lip service if you'll give me immortality." A pretty one-sided bargain that.  San Francisco with the broad Pacific below its hills, the sheer beauty of the city, as it strikes a stranger, a visitor, on a sunshiny day as he stands on one of its hills, or when the fog rolls in ...  The majestic mountains back of it ...  The sunshine, the rich fruit, sea wealth, land wealth, good food, good wine.  A man coming here, lingering a few days, as I have loved to do, drinking it all in, noting the tall beauty of so many of its women, friendliness of its men, getting, while he stays, a feeling of being far away from the ugliness and brutality of war -- world tiredness going out of him ...  All he wants to say to San Francisco is, be gay. Dance in your streets, up and down your hills.  Be glad, glad that you are San Franciscans and that San Francisco is a part of America. In a seemingly damned world we Americans may still, someday, if we can stay off wars, get into our daily lives with one another a bit more of what the figure of Christ really stands for.


Two poems for Christmas
by Kenneth Patchen
printed by John Hunter Thomas and sent by USPS to Dr. Albert Shumate in San Francisco by Mr. and Mrs. Patchen in Palo Alto, December 16, 1958

I HAVE LIGHTED THE CANDLES, MARY // I have lighted the candles, Mary... / How softly breathes your little Son / My wife has spread the table / With our best cloth. There are apples, / Bright as red clocks, upon the mantel. / The snow is a weary face at the window. / How sweetly does He sleep // "Into this bitter world, O Terrible Huntsman!" / I say, and she takes my hand -- "Hush, / You will wake Him." // The taste of tears is on her mouth / When I kiss her. I take an apple / And hold it tightly in my fist; / The cold, swollen face of war leans in the window. // They are blowing out the candles, Mary... / The world is a thing gone mad tonight. / O hold Him tenderly, dear Mother, / For his is a kingdom in the hearts of men. (1941) NOTHING HAS CHANGED // And nothing is the same... / those who then willed death / To all men, / Now have it to wield. // Those who light candles / In this darkness tonight, / Know that time is running out. / It is clear now / That the danger for mankind / Exists not so much in instruments of destruction / Not so much in monstrous new devices for mass-murder; / As in the possibility / That a Christmas Eve will come / When no man / Anywhere in the world / Will again commit the mad folly / Of lightning candles / For the table of his house... / As an instance of his love, and of his good will, / To all men, and to all creatures, everywhere. // Then, indeed, will their madness be joined... / And darkness, at last, cover all things. (1958)

If you would like to view any of these materials in person, we invite you to visit the Rare Book Room in Gleeson Library. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Please make note of the library’s holiday schedule, and call ahead to the Rare Book Librarian to make sure of his availability.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Book Review

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot tells the story of the womanHenriettawhose cells led a scientific revolution. Henrietta died from cervical cancer in 1951, but her cells are still used in many laboratories to this day. This book takes you through the life of Henrietta as well her children’s lives after her death. At the same time, in a parallel fashion, we learn about the many scientific advances that were made with the use of  Henrietta’s cells, which are known as HeLa cells. The ethical implications of this scientific practice are questioned throughout the book because her cells were taken without her consent. Many scientists profited and became famous in the scientific community by experimenting on Henrietta’s cells, while her family lived in poverty and suffered from health complications. Her descendants were unable to afford medical attention, yet many of the medical advances of the time traced back to Henrietta.


As biology student I think this book is fundamental to our education. I have been studying biology for the past three years, and I’ve had many lectures describing HeLa cells and the experiments they have been used for. I did not know that HeLa cells were named after Henrietta Lacks, a woman of color whose cells were taken without her consent.

This book is great for anyone who wants to know more about the ethics of science as well as the history of HeLa cells.

In addition to reading the book, you can watch a couple videos Gleeson Library owns. The library recently acquired HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, starring Oprah Winfrey. The library also has a CBS news recording featuring the story of Henrietta Lacks called The Gift of Life by Jason Sacca. Both of these videos are available at the Circulation Desk of the library.

Heading image, “HeLa” by Sarah R

Reframing Thanksgiving

Historically, Thanksgiving traditions were celebrated as gratitude to the gods after a successful harvest. These traditions date back to Ancient Greece and Rome; they are not unique to nor did they originate in the United States.  

As a matter of fact, the day we celebrate as Thanksgiving Day (currently) was not the first Thanksgiving celebration in America. The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated by a group of English settlers on the day of their arrival, December 4, 1619, and was celebrated thereafter thanking God for their arrival. The “official” Thanksgiving Day was first celebrated in October 1621, after the Pilgrim’s first harvest in Plymouth Colony. The Pilgrims celebrated and feasted on the harvested food, with the Wampanoag tribe in attendance. Thanksgiving was first named as a national holiday by President Lincoln. Since then, Thanksgiving  has been celebrated on multiple dates, until Congress declared it be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. To find out more about Thanksgiving as well as other holidays take a look at Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary: Detailing More Than 3,000 Observances from All 50 States and More Than 100 Nations edited by Cherie D. Abbey.

Meeting of Governor Carver and Massasoit. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b42342 

Do we have Thanksgiving all wrong?  Sanitizing “Indians” in America’s Thanksgiving story by Sierra Adare-Tasiwoopa ápi & Melissa Adams-Campbell explains how the education system has overlooked the brutality and violence inflicted on the Wampanoag tribe by the Pilgrims. Children are told that the Pilgrims and the Native Americans lived in harmony, and this narrative chooses to not educate children on the dark side of colonization. When thinking about Thanksgiving, we usually associate it with family, gratitude and happiness. We do not think about the many Native Americans that lost their lives to foreign diseases, war, slavery, and genocide brought by colonization.

An encyclopedia entry on the Wampanoag, available through the library’s online resources, elaborates on the history of the Wampanoag tribe. Wampanoag people lived in various locations in southern New England. They began their relationship with the Pilgrims in 1620. “There began the now famous relationship between the Indians and colonists, and there occurred the celebration of the first Thanksgiving, although this was a Pilgrim religious feast that was observed, not shared, by the Wampanoag.”

Other online resources:

On this Thanksgiving, in addition to eating turkey, spending time with friends and family, and starting your holiday shopping, we invite you to view the ebook Massasoit of the Wampanoags, or read about other Native Americans. Take a look at the ebook American Indian Biographies, for example the entry on Squanto, whose life is simply fascinating, and who translated communication between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags after escaping from slavery in Spain and living in England.

Heading image, [King (Metacomet) Philip, Sachem of the Wampanoags, d. 1676, full length, standing at treaty table with white men], available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs division.