Top 5 things to love about summertime in the Library

Summer is a great time at the Library! With fewer people around, and less general hubbub, there’s more space for you to be you — in new ways or old. Here are a few ways to make the most of it:

1. Scope out spaces, find your spot.

Two chairs and a small table face into a corner with floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of a large grassy space

Corner window study space in the Fine Arts Library.

With fewer people around, this is a great time to wander from place to place and get to know Library spaces! The Library currently has five locations open for your enjoyment: Clemons Library, Harrison/Small Special Collections Library, Brown Science & Engineering Library (in Clark Hall), Fine Arts Library, and the Music Library. All locations are open to everyone — the subject-specific names simply indicate what types of materials you’re likely to find there.

A rounded space with tall white columns is filled with comfy chairs and rich blue carpet

The main floor of the Music Library.

In Harrison/Small Special Collections Library, you’ll find several exhibitions to explore: permanent exhibitions include “Flowerdew Hundred” on the entry floor and “The Declaration of Independence” on the downstairs level. Rotating exhibitions are featured on the entry level (to your right upon entering the building) and downstairs.

See all Library locations and hours.

2. Make your own screening room

Clemons Library offers tens of thousands of videos for checkout — including a massive collection from Sneak Reviews, a video rental store which operated in Charlottesville until 2014. On the fourth floor of Clemons, you can borrow a DVD or VHS player, pick out your movies, and settle in for comfy screening! As with everything at the Library, movies and equipment are totally free of charge.

When you need a break between seasons of your newfound favorite show, check out the graphic novel collection! (And when you tire of that, Clemons also has a “New Books” shelf with tons of enticing options!)

That said, you do have to bring your own snacks…

Movie theater popcorn in a red and white paper cup

3. The perks of a quiet summer campus

Busses may be on limited service but bike racks tend to be wide open! With reduced summer traffic, this is a great time to cycle around Grounds.

A person in a sweatshirt stands in front of a green screen and gestures. A person in headphones points a camera at the scene.Fewer people in Library spaces also means easy access to tech stuff. Visit the Robertson Media Center on the 3rd floor of Clemons and try out a new game in Virtual Reality, or borrow a camera to capture Charlottesville’s wildlife! Once you’ve had your fill of nature, check out some A/V equipment and make your own blockbuster movie… and you can edit it on a G-Lab computer.

Heavy beams hold up two brick walls while a huge crane towers overhead

The main library renovation continues through 2023.

When you take a tech break to rest your eyes, get a breather in the new Gallery 4 space beside Clemons’ 4th floor information desk, or wander outside to the large patio outside Clemons 4th floor, where you can watch the future unfold in the massive renovation of the main library building.

If it’s a bit too quiet for you, summer is actually busy season in Special Collections! Find out more about making a visit to the Special Collections Reading Room, where you’re likely to have good company all summer long.

4. Enjoy the ambiance. And the high-speed internet.

What makes for better ambiance than free air conditioning on a hot day?! And if that’s not enough, remember that UVA provides high-speed internet to all visitors: just connect to the UVA Guest wifi network.

Plus, depending on where you go, the Library offers plentiful smells of old books, general peaceful quiet, and access to millions upon millions of published works from across the globe. Search or browse the collection now.

A bench is shaded under a huge green magnolia tree

5. Let us come to you!

Not planning to leave your house? We get it! The Library is here for you with online resources to keep you busy all summer long.

In addition to digital resources for research, the Library offers thousands of streaming movies. It’s as good as watching your new favorite films in Clemons… except closer proximity to your [fill in the blank: pets, snacks, favorite pillows]. Find out how to watch on-demand.

If you’d rather dig into a great new book, check out the Library’s themed reading lists, featuring the latest and greatest for all kinds of interests.

Finally, for when you want to feel like you’ve left the house (whether or not you actually do), dive into a digital tour. Six tours introduce you to UVA in new ways by telling stories of UVA places in light of the Enslaved African American experience, or taking you deep into the ongoing renovation of the main library. Take a Library tour on your phone, tablet, or computer.

A circular concrete structure surrounds a green area. The concrete is engraved with names and information about enslaved individuals in the Charlottesville area.

Several Library locations are near the powerful Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, worth a visit in any season.

Many thanks to Zeke Crater, Ronda Grizzle, Kristin Jensen, Arlyn Newcomb, Josh Thorud, Holly Robertson, Leigh Rockey, Katie Rojas, and Robin Ruggaber who provided critical input for this piece.

 

Celebrate Pride with the Library!

From Cecelia Parks, Undergraduate Student Success Librarian:

Pride Month is a wonderful time to celebrate the contributions to literature, scholarship, art, and society made by members of the LGBTQ community. Below are just a few of the books, films, and documents by and about queer folks that can be found at the UVA Library. This list only scratches the surface of what is out there, but provides a glimpse into queer history and culture, much of which has been historically ignored by mainstream cultural institutions like libraries, archives, museums, publishers, film studios, and others.

""Of course, the work of celebrating LGBTQ folks goes beyond Pride Month; to quote author and librarian Kristen Arnett, “it’s fine to read gay stuff even when it’s not june and there aren’t rainbows plastered all over everything, you can be gay all year if you feel like it.”

Is your favorite piece of queer literature or media missing from this list? Find us on Twitter @UVALibrary and let us know!

Does the UVA Library not have something you think we should have? Submit a purchase recommendation!

Living Queer HistoryLiving Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City (2021), by Gregory Samantha Rosenthal

In “Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City,” Gregory Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of the LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia (a few hours southwest of Charlottesville). Rosenthal also chronicles how she transitioned as she worked on the community history project that forms the basis for the book. There is not much scholarship out there about Virginia’s queer history, and this book represents an important intervention in Virginia history and the history of queer folks in the South more broadly.

 

The Secret to Superhuman StrengthThe Secret to Superhuman Strength (2021), by Alison Bechdel, with the extremely extensive coloring collaboration of Holly Rae Taylor

“The Secret to Superhuman Strength” follows lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s previous, highly acclaimed works “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother?” and the “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip. Drawing on extended literary metaphors and her own experiences, Bechdel uses beautifully realistic, evocative drawings and dry humor to explore deeply personal issues including her relationship to herself and her relationship to her body.

 

HoneypotHoneypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2019), by E. Patrick Johnson

“Honeypot” is E. Patrick Johnson’s creative nonfiction companion to his longer work, “Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History.” Both feature oral history interviews conducted by Johnson with Black queer women living across the South. In “Honeypot,” Johnson’s character is guided through the women-only world of Hymen by Miss B, who is determined that he listen to stories of the women there and share them on his return to his world. Their stories cover coming out, family relationships, religion, political activism, and much more. Johnson’s use of magical realism and poetry make the powerful oral history interviews even more accessible and impactful in this book.

 

Last Night at the Telegraph ClubLast Night at the Telegraph Club (2021), by Malinda Lo

Winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” follows Lily, a Chinese American teenager living in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s, as she discovers and explores her queer identity. Lily must contend with 1950s prejudice against homosexuality and threats of her father’s deportation as part of the Red Scare to navigate her heritage and her sexuality. This book is an excellent read for young adults and adults alike.

 

Semi QueerSemi Queer: Stories of Trans, Gay, and Black Truck Drivers (2018), by Anne Balay

Anne Balay dives into the stories of working-class truck drivers to highlight both the harsh realities of truckers’ lives and the “welcome isolation” trucking can provide for marginalized people. A licensed trucker herself, Balay explores the juxtaposition of strict regulations, tough labor conditions, and opportunities for truckers to earn a living and be themselves; in other words, the paradox of finding safety in an unsafe job. This book will make you rethink the semi trucks you pass on the interstate every day.

 

Screen shot of David, who is saying I'm 6 and when I was born they thought I was a girlTransitioning: Transgender Children (2016) (film)

This documentary film explores the process of transitioning through the stories of four transgender people who chose to transition at a young age. The young people share their experiences of transitioning in their own words, and their parents also share their experiences of their children’s transitions. This film is in Catalan and Spanish with English subtitles.

 

Field Files from the Privacy Project: Arlington Virginia Gay Alliance (1988), from Archives of Sexuality & Gender

In addition to books and films, the UVA Library has access to many historical primary sources by and about LGBTQ people. The documents highlighted here come from a number of gay organizations across Virginia in the 1980s, including Virginians for Justice, the Arlington Virginia Gay Alliance, the Prince William Gay and Lesbian Association, the Virginia Council on Human Rights, and PFLAG of the Washington Metropolitan Area. These documents cover a variety of subjects, including lobby days and marches in Richmond for gay rights, relevant bills under consideration in the General Assembly, and information about how to get involved with these organizations. Check out the Archives of Sexuality and Gender (domestic and international), the LGBT Magazine Archive, and the Sex & Sexuality databases for more information, or search our full collections in Virgo, which includes many primary sources such as those from UVA Library’s special collections.

For more information on doing research on topics related to LGBTQ history, culture, and politics, contact Erin Pappas, Librarian for the Humanities, or see the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Resources research guide.

UVA Library joins “On the Books” project with Mellon Foundation grant for “Modeling a Racial Caste System: Algorithmic Exposure of Virginia’s Jim Crow Laws”

The UVA Library is launching a 16-month Mellon Foundation-funded project that will create a legal text collection identifying Jim Crow language in Virginia laws from 1865 to 1968.

“Modeling a Racial Caste System: Algorithmic Exposure of Virginia’s Jim Crow Laws” is headed by project lead and principal investigator Carmelita Pickett, University of Virginia Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Content Strategy. Amy Wharton, Director of UVA’s Arthur J. Morris Law Library, is co-principal investigator. The project team includes UVA Library staff from the Scholarly Resources and Content Strategy team and Research Data Services’ StatLab, UVA Law library and Legal Data Lab staff, the HathiTrust digital library, and UVA faculty.

“Modeling a Racial Caste System” is an expansion of “On the Books: Jim Crow and the Algorithms of Resistance,” a project of the UNC-Chapel Hill University Libraries that uses text mining and machine learning to uncover racially based legislation in North Carolina that was signed into law from the Reconstruction period through the civil rights movement. The computational-based results are then reviewed for confirmation by an attorney on the project team. The UVA project and another planned by the University of South Carolina were chosen through a competitive call for proposals to broaden “On the Books” to other states. The UVA team will use the workflows, products and machine learning techniques developed by the “On the Books” project team at UNC Chapel Hill.

The UVA project includes well-regarded UVA scholars Justene Hill Edwards of the Corcoran Department of History and Law professor Andrew Block. “Modeling a Racial Caste System” will build on the recent research by the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law. Block served as vice chair of the commission, established by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2019 with the charge to review and identify laws and regulations that facilitated racial discrimination in Virginia’s Acts of Assembly and the Code of Virginia from 1900 to 1960 to determine their current impact. In adherence to the “On the Books” guidelines, “Modeling a Racial Caste System” will use Virginia’s Acts of Assembly in digital form, made available through HathiTrust.

The commission’s report acknowledged that “Virginia policymakers and other leaders spent centuries building legal and other structures to comprehensively segregate and oppress people of color,” and that while the laws have been erased, “the impact of what they built has not.”

Pickett, the project lead for “Modeling a Racial Caste System,”explained that the long history of legal discrimination and its continued effects made Virginia a compelling candidate for the “On the Books” expansion. She pointed as far back as Bacon’s Rebellion in the 1670s, which “prompted Virginia lawmakers to establish laws differentiating between persons of African descent and persons of European descent. These laws legitimized anti-Black racism and created a racial caste system.”

Jewish Life in America features full range of Jewish American experience

For many American Jews, life in the United States began in New York Harbor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as they sought refuge from persecution in Europe, and later from the horrors of Nazi death camps. The famous lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty welcoming “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” are from “The New Colossus” by Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus. But as Jewish Life in America, c1654-1954 reveals, the Jewish American experience dates back at least three and a half centuries with the arrival of the first Jews in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (later New York), well before there was a United States.

Immigrant couple, a bearded man wearing a cap and his wife wearing a scarf and a floor-length dress sit for a portrait outside of a wood-framed house.

Russian Jewish couple at the Baron de Hirsch-financed Woodbine agricultural settlement in southern New Jersey, circa 1900.

One article from 1915, “The Injustice of the Literacy Test,” originally appearing in The Jewish Immigration Bulletin, shows how little the experience of immigrants to America has changed in over a century. In the article, renowned social activist Jane Addams wrote, “The deplorable part of the whole discussion of immigration is the constant appeal to racial prejudice … While anthropologists have shown … that the most important differences are individual and not racial, it is easy to persuade the person who has no opportunity of really knowing the recent immigrant, that the superficial differences in dress and speech … are evidence of inferiority.”

Primary sources featured in the database have been drawn from the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City, and go beyond the immigrant experience, bringing to life the full range of Jewish American identity and culture from the 17th to the mid-20th century. Contextualizing tools include a chronology of major events, essays by leading scholars, articles from the American Jewish Year Book, a gallery of visual resources, and biographies of important figures. The database offers access to six major organizational collections and twenty-four collections of personal papers (letters, scrapbooks, autobiographies, notebooks, and more).

The collections are a treasure trove of information on:

  • The evolution of early Jewish Settlements in areas such as New York, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia.
  • Structures of support for immigrants from the Old World, differing experiences of immigrants, and immigration strategies adopted at Ellis Island and in Galveston in the late 19th century.
  • The role of Jews in the American War of Independence and the Civil War.
  • The role of the synagogue as a focal point for Jewish communities.
  • The development of Jewish schools and charitable institutions.
  • Westward expansion and the attempts to establish Jewish farms.
  • The Jewish Diaspora from Europe and around the world and dispersal across America.
  • The garment industry, peddling, general stores, finance, and diversification into other industries.
  • The development of Judaism in America — Reformed, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox — including patterns of immigration and societal changes.
  • Reaching out to Jewish communities around the world, especially to Russia, Romania, Germany, and Eastern Europe.
  • American Jewish involvement in the Spanish-American War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.
  • Involvement in Civil Rights and Minority Rights issues.

For details about these collections please refer to the Guide to Archival Collections in the site’s online User Guide, and please visit the Library A-Z Databases list for other online resources about the Jewish American experience.

Research Sprints are underway: Faculty and Library experts work together on challenging problems

From Judith Thomas, Director of Faculty Programs:

Research Sprints offer faculty the opportunity to work with a team of expert librarians who help with getting a new project started or overcoming obstacles in an existing project. The Research Sprints program, which offers support for projects at any phase of the scholarly lifecycle, is mutually beneficial to recipients and Library staff — faculty receive help in moving projects forward, and Library staff hone and expand their skills in ways that help current and future partners. The first Sprint in this cohort began in mid-May, and Sprints continue through the summer.

This year’s participants include:

Janet Kong-Chow, American Studies and English, College of Arts and Sciences

This Sprint supports early research for a book manuscript exploring the processes through which the modern archive (physical and digital) came to be understood as a site of knowledge production in the West, and as such, how its curatorial practices continue to shape and transform ideas of race, ethnicity, gender, and postcoloniality in the American cultural imagination.

Library team:

  • Molly Schwartzburg, Curator, Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library
  • Meg Kennedy, Curator of Material Culture
  • Lauren Longwell, University Archivist
  • Chris Ruotolo, Director, Research in the Arts and Humanities

Mary Kuhn, English, College of Arts and Sciences

This Sprint team will research the cultural history of Paris Green, a toxic arsenic-based compound widely used in domestic and agricultural settings in the late nineteenth-century United States. The project will draw on scientific and popular periodicals, agricultural and gardening manuals, advertisements, wallpaper samples, and other domestic material culture.

Library team:

  • Sherri Brown, Librarian for English
  • Maggie Nunley, Science and Engineering Research Librarian
  • Jenny Coffman, Science and Engineering Research Librarian
  • Keith Weimer, Librarian for History, Politics, and Religious Studies

Moira O’Neill, Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture and Law School

This Research Sprint will conduct an interdisciplinary literature review to support writing a book on how local governments implement climate and fair housing policy. The team will review both urban planning and law literature in their investigation of topics relating to spatial inequity, community participation in policy-making, and land use regulation.

Library team:

  • Rebecca Coleman, Research Librarian for Architecture
  • Christine Slaughter, Social Sciences Research Librarian
  • Dan Radthorne, Reference Librarian, School of Law

Michael Puri, Music, College of Arts and Sciences

The goal of this Research Sprint is to flesh out the cultural politics surrounding the relationship between French and German music at the turn of the twentieth century. The composers Maurice Ravel and Richard Strauss receive particular attention as prominent and closely related representatives of the two traditions.

Library team:

  • Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts
  • Miguel Valladares-Llata, Librarian for Romance Languages and Latin American Studies

Dylan Rogers, Art History and Archeology, College of Arts and Sciences

The Sprint will provide research support for an interdisciplinary book project on the history of the University of Virginia, which seeks to employ methodologies of archaeology, art history, and architectural history to understand better how the University’s physical imprint and cultural significance developed over time. The Sprint will lay the crucial groundwork for identifying and collating the numerous available archival materials housed in the University’s Library that provide insight into UVA’s complex history.

Library team:

  • Lucie Stylianopoulos, Librarian for Art, Archaeology, & Indigenous Studies
  • Ann Burns, Metadata Librarian
  • Rebecca Coleman, Research Librarian for Architecture
  • Meg Kennedy, Curator of Material Culture
  • Lauren Longwell, University Archivist

Jessica Sewell, Planning, School of Architecture

This Sprint will provide support for the forthcoming book, “Gender and Vernacular Architecture,” which is simultaneously a primer for studying gender in vernacular architecture and a guide and manifesto for inclusive methodologies in the study of the built environment. The Sprint will assist in finding and acquiring illustrations, supporting and enhancing the argument, and boosting the beauty and accessibility of the book.

Library team:

  • Rebecca Coleman, Research Librarian for Architecture
  • Erin Pappas, Librarian for the Humanities
  • Brandon Butler, Director, Information Policy

Michael Sheehy, Contemplative Sciences Center

The Sprint will research topics at the intersection of sensory deprivation and meditation with a focus on self-emergent and hallucinatory visual experiences during dark exposure. The team will collaboratively identify multimedia resources on preselected topics in Religious Studies, Anthropology, Psychology, and Neuroscience.

Library team:

  • Keith Weimer, Librarian for History, Politics, and Religious Studies
  • Nawang Thokmey, Librarian for Tibetan, Himalayan, and Contemplative Studies
  • Andrea Denton, Research and Data Services Manager, Health Sciences Library

Ben Small, Architecture, School of Architecture

This project takes a close look at visitor centers commissioned by various government organizations in the United States and asks how these buildings might be understood in terms of local concepts of place and broader political agendas. The project team will collect and interpret documentation such as commission contracts, brochures, and more, related to publicly-funded visitor centers.

Library team:

  • Rebecca Coleman, Librarian for Architecture
  • Christine Slaughter, Social Sciences Research Librarian
  • Penny White, Reference Librarian, Special Collections Library
  • Trillian Hosticka, Reference Librarian and Regional Depository Librarian

Learn more about Research Sprints at the UVA Library.

Celebrating a Milestone of the Main Library Renovation

University and Library personnel and construction workers and contractors gathered yesterday for a “topping-out ceremony” for the library renovation. The topping-out is when the last beam is placed atop a structure, and is a traditional milestone in a major construction project.

Guy Mengel, retired Library Director of Facilities and Security, returned to Grounds to sign the beam. (photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

The beam was signed by Library staff, UVA facilities personnel, construction workers, and others involved in the project. Chris Rhodes, Skanska senior project manager; John Unsworth, the University librarian and dean of libraries at UVA; and Mark Stanis, director of construction for UVA, delivered remarks thanking the tradespeople involved. The remarks were translated into Spanish for the benefit of all by carpenter Alex Alverez.

The topping-out ceremony symbolically marks the transition in construction away from the exterior of the building and into a new phase as the structure is “closed up” and the interior work begins. The renovation/construction project, slated to be finished in the fall of 2023, will completely refurbish the historic envelope of the building and add new collections, research, and study space.

Read more and view photos of the topping-out ceremony from UVA Today.

Recommended reading for Jewish American Heritage Month 2022

May is Jewish American Heritage Month! To help celebrate, UVA librarian for English, Sherri Brown, reached out to a few people in the UVA community for recommended reading with a focus on fiction and memoirs written by Jewish American women. We hope you find a book or two to pique your interest!

Recommended by Sherri Brown, Research Librarian for English and Digital Humanities

Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick (Knopf, 2021)

Cynthia Ozick provides the reader with much to ponder in this compact novel. Readers get a glimpse into the thoughts of Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie through the guise of his attempt at writing a memoir. In some ways, Petrie’s attitude and escapades as he attempts to record a moment from his childhood at the Temple Academy for Boys in New York calls to mind a character befitting Donald Petrie’s 1993 film “Grumpy Old Men” or John Madden’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011). However, Lloyd Petrie is not a loveable character but an anti-Semite who fluctuates between his own self-aggrandizement and self-doubt. The novel questions the authenticity of memory, the significance of memoir, and the adoration of objects, all while Petrie reflects on a secret infatuation with an outcast among outcasts. One reading only scratches the surface of the treasure embedded in these pages.

Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self by Rebecca Walker (Riverhead Books, 2001)

Rebecca Walker is the daughter of famed novelist Alice Walker and civil rights lawyer Melvyn R. Leventhal. Her memoir captures the searingly harsh adolescent experience of growing up in the U.S., her childhood made particularly challenging by her multiracial heritage. Walker shares her struggle with finding her identity while feeling ever the outsider. A book that highlights both pain and resilience, this account delves into feelings of not being Black enough, not being white enough, and not being Jewish enough. While this was written more than twenty years ago, it still reflects the state of a nation that is uncomfortable with race and religion and the children who must learn to live with that discord.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (WW Norton, 2005)

I first read this book more than ten years ago and gave it three stars out of five on Goodreads. But I picked it up again this past winter, and wow, it really spoke to me this time around! This novel is written in several narrative voices. The chapters narrated by Jewish Polish American immigrant Leo Gursky alone make the book a must read. Leo is nearing the end of his life (or so he believes), and the way he sees the world and relates to it is alternately shocking, funny, sad, and touching. His loneliness is palpable — “All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen.” This is a book to be read slowly and contemplated to be truly enjoyed. I’m glad I came back to it. 

Recommended by Ashley Hosbach, Education and Social Science Research Librarian

Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes (Tordotcom, 2021)

“When we came to America, we brought anger and socialism and hunger. We also brought our demons.”

“Burning Girls” reclaims the fairy tale genre, viewed here through a Jewish feminist lens that subverts the Grimm brothers’ anti-Semitic tropes. Gripping and dark, Veronica Schanoes’ collection of short stories explores witchcraft, demons, and vengeance, a narrative driven by the fears and hopes of immigrants fleeing their home countries for a better life. However, Schanoes ultimately reveals that the true horrors are not the creatures lurking in the shadows, but instead are the sins of capitalism, the false promise of the “American Dream,” anti-Semitism, and the overwhelming cruelty of humanity.

Recommended by Eyal Handelsman Katz, English Ph.D. candidate at UVA

Handelsman Katz’s dissertation explores parental figures and their ties to feminist and ethnic movements and discourses in 20th and 21st century multiethnic American prose. In collaboration with the UVA Religion, Race & Democracy Lab, he recently produced a short documentary, Słabe Jajko, about his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust.

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska (Doubleday, Page & Company, 1925)

When Anzia Yezierska’s family emigrated to the United States from the Polish part of Russia in the 1880s, they Americanized their name, calling themselves the Mayers, with Anzia becoming Hattie Mayer. Yezierska would become a celebrated author in the early 20th century, penning among other novels “Bread Givers” (1925), her most famous work. The novel is a coming-of-age story that follows Sara Smolinsky as she struggles against her caricature of a father and sets out to succeed on her own terms. While the narrative bears the expected tropes of early 20th century feminist writing that often links female independence with whiteness and Americanization, there is more to Yezierska and the novel than meets the eye. How do we reconcile Sara’s attempt to Americanize herself with the author’s resolve to market herself as an ethnic writer under her birth name? Modern readers will also appreciate some of the ways in which the novel predates familiar tropes in rom-coms of the 1990s. Yezierska herself found brief success in Hollywood before becoming ultimately frustrated by its shallowness and alienation.

The Promised Land by Mary Antin (Houghton Mifflin, 1912)

Mary Antin, like Anzia Yezierska, was a Russian Jewish immigrant who moved to the Lower East Side and contributed to a wave of early feminist Jewish writing. “The Promised Land” (1912) was a celebrated and controversial memoir in which she traced her experiences as an immigrant and her embrace of U.S. culture. Antin’s text serves as a key to understanding contemporary issues in Jewish culture: Her vision of Jewish heritage in racial (rather than strictly religious) terms. How do Jews identify themselves, or should they? The question provoked widespread debate in Jewish communities throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which is clear in Antin’s memoir. Crucially, as with Yezierska, Antin offers an intersectional answer: she asks not just what does it mean to be Jewish American, but what does it mean to be a Jewish American woman?

The Collected Stories by Grace Paley (Farrar Staus Giroux, 1994)

Grace Paley’s “The Collected Stories” includes three of her excellent story collections: “The Little Disturbances of Man” (1959), “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” (1974), and “Later in the Same Day” (1985). In reading these stories, we see the evolution of one of the 20th century’s most talented prose writers. From the youthful energy of her early work (particularly “The Loudest Voice,” wherein a young Jewish girl is given the starring role in her school’s nativity play) to the charmingly adolescent and poignantly existential second collection (including “The Long Distance Runner,” in which a young mother hides herself in her old family home, adopted by its new inhabitants) to her more political later work (such as “Listening,” where she offers a form of activism based on the power of small gestures we can do for each other), one cannot help but be seduced by Paley’s verve, gentleness, and humor.

“The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick (1980). Printed in book format by Knopf, 1989.

Theodor Adorno famously stated that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” How can one write anything that aims to represent such atrocities? In other words, can or should the Holocaust be represented? Many authors have taken various approaches to writing about the Holocaust, from the purely factual to the comic and beyond. Cynthia Ozick’s famous short story, “The Shawl,” seeks to represent the Shoah not through fact, but through feeling. A deeply visceral story, “The Shawl” follows Rosa, a mother trying against all odds to survive the concentration camps, with Ozick’s magical realism serving as a way to navigate a reality so awful and tragic that it seems as if it could only be unreal (an approach not without detractors). Please check out Ozick’s sequel “Rosa,” which follows some of the characters as they attempt to live on in the aftermath of unshakeable trauma.

Days of Awe by Achy Obejas (Ballantine Books, 2001)

When someone told Achy Obejas that her surname suggested that she had Jewish ancestry, she was motivated to dig deep into her family history. Her discoveries led her to write “Days of Awe” (2001), which, while not autobiographical, allowed her to reflect on the history of what are known as “crypto-Jews” (Jews who secretly adhere to Judaism while outwardly professing another faith, especially Sephardic Jews who faced forced conversion in Spain). “Days of Awe” follows Alejandra, a Cuban American woman who, in her travels back to Cuba, uncovers her father’s secret Jewish heritage. Through Alejandra’s plight as a lesbian woman navigating what it means to be a Jewish Cuban immigrant in the United States, Obejas offers us a complex commentary on the very notion of ethnicity.

Recommended by Hannah Jane LeDuff, UVA alum

Hannah Jane LeDuff earned her Master’s degree in English with a concentration in World Religion and World Literature in 2021. She is currently an editor for a committee of the Mississippi Legislature.

The Book of Separation: A Memoir by Tova Mirvis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018)

Tova Mirvis’s memoir details her own journey of leaving her Orthodox Jewish marriage and community to explore the unmapped terrain of a world outside of the religion and tradition in which she was raised. This memoir inspires readers to live their lives true to themselves without the fetters of the expectations of others.

 

Also recommended by Hannah Jane:

Researchers can direct queries about Jewish American literature to Sherri Brown and research questions regarding Jewish Studies to Miguel Valladares-Llata, Librarian for Romance Languages and Latin American Studies, whose subject specialties include French, German, Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage with some great reads!

May is Asian American and Pacific American Heritage Month! Celebrate by reading literature, poetry, and more by Asian American and Pacific Island artists. Here’s a list prepared by Undergraduate Student Success Librarian Haley Gillilan to get you started.

POETRY

Night Sky with Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong

This critically acclaimed and award-winning poetry collection by Vietnamese American author Ocean Vuong is centered around diaspora, queer love, and the author’s relationship with his mother. As a poet, Vuong is careful and thoughtful, and very focused on craft and form.

His novel, “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous,” is a semi-autobiographical work in which a son writes a letter to his mother. Vuong also recently released a new poetry collection, “Time Is A Mother.“

READ BEFORE YOU WATCH

Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee

“Pachinko” is a saga that spans decades, following four generations of a Korean family as they navigate migration, exile, and shifting power dynamics. This beautiful story asking timeless questions about home, identity, and culture is perfect for anyone who loves historical dramas. It has recently been adapted into a miniseries for Apple TV+, featuring award winning actress Youn Yuh-Jung and popular K-drama actor Lee Min-Ho.

MEMOIR

Another Appalachia: Coming Up Indian and Queer in a Mountain Place” by Neema Avashia

This book of personal essays follows the experiences of an Indian woman who grew up queer in West Virginia. Avashia’s work is about a very small and close-knit community that exists in a place that seems unlikely and attempts to reconcile nostalgia with the realities of her upbringing. For those seeking a unique and moving portrait of the Appalachian region, this book is for you.

MYSTERY COMEDY

Dial A For Aunties” by Jesse Q. Sutanto

I have heard this book described as a “Crazy Rich Asians” meets “Weekend at Bernies,” and I don’t think a description could possibly be more accurate. “Dial A For Aunties” will take you on a rollercoaster that never stops twisting. When Meddy Chan accidentally kills her blind date, her nosy Aunties spring to the rescue. Things get more complicated when the body is accidentally shipped to the billionaire island resort where Meddy and her family are supposed to be working at a wedding that weekend. Can they dispose of the body, pull off the wedding, and dodge Meddy’s college ex-boyfriend all at the same time? Find out in this hilarious, page-turning adventure.

HISTORY

Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People” by Helen Zia

For those hoping to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Asian American activism, this book is a great place to start. The author, Helen Zia, is an important activist and journalist who, when she started speaking out about the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982, energized and coalesced Detroit’s Asian American community. It became a key moment in the larger Asian American movement.

SHORT STORIES

In the Country” by Mia Alvar

Thanks to Romance Languages and Latin American Studies Librarian Miguel A Valldares- Llata for this contribution.

This first book written by Mia Alvar won multiple awards as soon as it was released in 2016. Its nine short stories evoke not only a past in the Philippines but the personal evolution, nostalgia, struggle, and conflict involved in reaching a new world in New York and Bahrain. It is a book overflowing with family, miracles, girls, legends, and especially Kontrabida (villains, although I prefer the translation as antihero). Written in English and sprinkled with Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines), it shows the desire to conquer a new world from a woman’s vantage point.

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Boxers & Saints” by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite graphic novelists. “Boxers & Saints” is among his best. These companion volumes tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of the characters Little Bao and Vibiana. Although they are on different sides of the struggle, their narratives mirror each other and their internal journeys weave together. For those seeking some historical fiction but with an approachable, illustrated style, Yang’s work is not to be missed.

LITERARY

The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka

“The Swimmers” is the newest release from critically acclaimed writer Julie Otsuka. Among her accolades, she has received the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Experimental in form and craft, “The Swimmers” is about what happens to a group of recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their pool, and about a woman named Alice.