The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Stephanie Wang
Student, MA, Psychology

A disturbing yet oddly rational account about the apathetic descent into the depths of despair (and back again).

“‘The Bell Jar’ is a novel about the events of Sylvia Plath’s 20th year: about how she tried to die, and how they stuck her together with glue. It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems–the kind of book Salinger’s Franny might have written about herself 10 years later, if she had spent those 10 years in Hell.”
Robert Scholes, The New York Times, 1971

Peter Orr interviews Sylvia Plath in 1962.



Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Mark Riddle
Director of Institutional Research

I’ve got a crush on Luna Lovegood. I thought Evanna Lynch did a great job of playing her in the movies, but it’s Luna I’d want to sit behind in Spells class, and Luna whom I’d ask to dance at the Tri-wizard ball, if the opportunity presented itself. Given that we travel in different circles, the only way to conjure her up was to re-read the last three books in the Harry Potter series.

We meet Luna for the first time in the fifth volume of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Most people, including Harry, Hermione, and Ron, don’t know what to make of her, as she believes in things that are clearly in the realm of fantasy. I can’t help but think that Rowling’s playing with the fourth wall a bit here; after all, as readers, we’re suspending belief to enter a world where brooms come flying when one mutters Latin-esque words in their general direction, so it’s fun to see that the books’ protagonists have trouble believing in Nargles and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.

Luna has much to commend her in addition to her belief in unbelievable. (For me, that’s just about enough. I’ve always been fond of Dodson’s Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who could believe in “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”) Her confidence in Harry never wavers, and she’s a devoted friend to all the important secondary characters. I think the thing that appeals most to me is her keen insight, which is often revealed with brutal honesty. Plus, she looks fabulous in spectrespecs. Yeah, I’ve got it bad.
Luna: Late 14c. as an alchemical name for “Silver;” 1520s as “moon,” from L. luna “moon,” from *leuksna- (cf. O.C.S. luna “moon,” O.Pruss. lauxnos “stars,” M.Ir. luan “light, moon”), from the same source as lux, lumen “light.” The luna moth (1884) so called for the crescent-shaped markings on its wings.
Luna Lovegood, explained.
J.K. Rowling says, “I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.”

The Isaiah Effect: Decoding the Lost Science of Prayer and Prophecy by Gregg Braden

Monica Batholomew
Student, Bridge Program

Although I read this book a while ago I hold onto it even when I give others books in my library away. I want to re-read it, revisit it. I’ve recommended it to others, in particular my father who is open-minded. You have to allow yourself to read it with an open-mind.

Ahh, “the lost science…” That part of the title really appealed to me. This book is based around “The Book of Isaiah.” It was the only intact and sealed scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It’s the prayer part of the book that I remember best. There’s a science to prayer that we’ve lost. When Braden traveled the world seeking and studying spiritual leaders he learned that traditionally prayers were said from a place of abundance, even though there was deprivation, such as with the American Indian rain dance.

One of his visits was to investigate the life of the “green monk” so called because this man’s diet consisted of so much vegetation his skin took on a green hue. This monk left an impression of his hand in a cave wall because of his ability to see everything in the world as one, not separate from us. Through the power of his mind he is said to have moved his hand into the wall of the cave. This story really shook me up so I double checked it on-line. Braden visited the cave and saw the impression. As I said, you have to have to read this book with an open mind.

What Braden encourages us to do is re-train our thinking toward the positive. I learned to double check my thinking after reading this book. I need to be reminded to do that, which may be why this book is so important to me.
Interview with Gregg Braden, Wynn Free

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake by B. D’J. Pancake

Rose Dimatteo
Student, MFA

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake are tales born in the Blue Ridge Mountains about people you might meet at the local grocery, bar, pool hall or fishing hole. Characters who seem timeless as the mountain trails. There are miners and hunters, beautiful women who make men pay and lost teenagers. Southern characters easily become stereotypes in the hands of lesser writers, but Pancake creates individuals so alive in these hills and towns that they rival anything you might find in Hemingway, O’Conner, Faulkner or McCullers. Born in 1952, he shot himself in April of 1979, but he left us gold.
“Breece D’J Pancake’s Short, Stunning Career,” Chris Lehmann, NPR
“Transcripts of a Troubled Mind,” Tim Heffernan, Atlantic Monthly
Trilobites by B. D’J. Pancake

My Brother Marvin: A Memoir by Zeola Gaye

Timothy Harrell
Student, Bridge Program

Marvin’s baby sister wrote this book. They were very close so he was comfortable divulging a lot of information to her because he trusted her. He had a couple of rocky marriages and an on-going drug problem. His sister was one of his suppliers. At the book signing I went to she said she would only write the book if she was going to tell the absolute truth. That’s what appealed to me. I could see the truth in her descriptions of Washington D.C. during the 70s.

I’ve always been fascinated by biographies. I was in the entertainment realm with my family of sisters and we were always listening to Motown. I heard his music then, but my attention wasn’t drawn to him until he was shot by his father.

I was a kid in the same area of Washington DC where Marvin grew up. People from around there have said to me “That’s a Marvin nose” and “You look like Marvin Gaye.” Even at the book signing Zeola looked at me and said, “Well, you could be related.” There are Gayes on my mother’s side of the family and our families all grew up in same area. I felt comfortable with her family at the signing.

I followed up with an email to Zeola reminding her that I was the one in the audience that asked her about family names. I thought it might trigger some connection about our families for her. I’d hear back from her.

She was colloquial in her language. She spoke as the entertainer she was. Her vocabulary isn’t extensive. She wasn’t college educated, she went straight from high school to being on the road but she knew people
and what was going on. Her writing let me visualize the ’70s again, just as it was for me back then in my home town. Her writing is very descriptive. Now I’m looking for other books that can take me away like that.
“The Power of Memoirs, Biographies,” Michel Martin, NPR

The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth

Sara Ring
Communications Assistant

What if beloved American icon (and Nazi sympathizer) Charles Lindbergh had run against Franklin D. Roosevelt for president in 1940? What if Lindbergh had won? This alternate history novel depicts the ramifications of a Lindbergh presidency on the country, from a staunch anti-war sentiment to a subtle but pervasive anti-Semitism. The ominous developments are told through the eyes of the story’s narrator, a Jewish boy from New Jersey named, unsurprisingly, Philip Roth. Is the mounting anti-Semitism a passing phase, or is something much more sinister underfoot? “The Plot Against America” is a gripping page-turner, infused with Roth’s signature wry wit. The title itself is something of a trick; I literally gasped out loud when its true meaning was revealed. When’s the last time a book made you do that?
“Roth Rewrites History with a ‘Plot Against America’,” Robert Siegel, NPR. Interview with Philip Roth
“Imagining Jews,” Philip Roth, New York Review of Books

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Laurie Gillies, PhD
Student, MFA

I tried reading this book in high school and GAVE UP. Decades later, and with a new translation, I fell in love. I stayed up too late, night after night, riveted. Tolstoy captures a world that has disappeared and it’s a fascinating world. His extraordinary eye for detail and the beauty of his language is staggering. But it’s his characters and their development that really got to me. Seeing how much and how little people can change over time is so beautifully captured. Nobody is a stock character and even the buffoon is presented with humanity and dignity. If you haven’t tried Tolstoy since this translation came out, give it another look. Pevear and Volokhonsky won the Pen/Book-of-the Month Club Translation Award, a well deserved honor.
“The Translation Wars: How the race to translate Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky continues to spark feuds, end friendships, and create small fortunes.” David Remnick, The New Yorker
“Tolstoy’s Real Hero,” Orlando Figes, New York Review of Books
“The Judgment of Anna Karenina: Feminist Criticism and the Image of the Heroine,” Amy Mandelker, Framing Anna Karenina: Tolstoy, the Woman Question, and the Victorian Novel

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

Deborah A. Lott
Literature Instructor, Bridge Program
Adjunct Faculty, BA

Wow, this book puts Hannah Arendt’s notion of the banality of evil in a whole other context for me. Evil inches into ordinary Germans’ lives as the Nazis ask a little more obedience, a little more irrationality, a little more ground of them every day until they’ve actually taken over the government. Amazing how something like the Heil Hitler salute being required at every encounter could create so much background noise of paranoia that people lost the ability to take action against the take over. The book also makes it clear how complicit the US was for a very long time, and how US anti-semitism contributed to our failure to act. This book is so well researched and meticulously documented. The kind of book no one seems to have the time or commitment to write anymore. Bravo.
“The capacity for evil can spread like an epidemic: The thoughtlessness of the controversy over Arendt’s book on Eichmann only reinforces her point about ‘the banality of evil’,” Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, The Guardian
Interview with Erik Larson, David B. Green, Haaretz
“Fascist Ecology: The ‘Green Wing’ of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents,” Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

AULA Library

The Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program was felled by a bill devised by the Arizona State Legislature to ban ethnic studies in public K-12 schools and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer. John Huppenthal, the Arizona state superintendent of public school instruction and the initiator of the ban, made a campaign promise when running for office to “stop la raza.”

One approach to stopping la raza is banning books. Arizona officials went into each classroom where MAS instruction took place and removed from the shelves books that supported the MAS curriculum. We in the library are not surprised by this. That is, while taking books away from kids shocks and unsettles, is a vulgar act, it also makes sense if the goal is to try and control the thinking and learning of a population. Reading is powerful. And while the image of adults entering a classroom where instruction is going on and removing books is repugnant, it is also a strong message to the students that books matter, that reading can threaten the status quo. Read on!
Mexican American Studies Department Reading List, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) blog.
“Challenging Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies,” Peter Rothberg, The Nation
“No History is Illegal: A Campaign to Save Our Stories,” Network of Teacher Activist Groups