Cultural Studies

BLACK IN THE MIDDLE: AN ANTHOL

BLACK IN THE MIDDLE: AN ANTHOL

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An ambitious, honest portrait of the Black experience in flyover country. One of The St. Louis Post Dispatch's Best Books of 2020.

Black Americans have been among the hardest hit by the rapid deindustrialization and accompanying economic decline that have become so synonymous with the Midwest. After the 2016 election, many traditional media outlets renewed their attention on the conditions of "Middle America," but they often marginalized or completely overlooked the experience of the Black people who live there.

Edited by Terrion Williamson, the director of the Black Midwest Initiative, Black in the Middle places the voices of Black midwesterners front and center. Filled with compelling personal narratives, thought-provoking art, and searing commentaries, this anthology explores the various meanings and experiences of blackness throughout the Rust Belt, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. It brings together people from major metropolitan centers like Detroit and Chicago as well as smaller cities and rural areas where the lives of Black residents have too often gone unacknowledged to create "a timely, compelling collection that allows predominantly Black Midwesterners to reclaim their home, histories, and future."

A much-needed corrective to common narratives about the Midwest.


FALLEN IDOLS: TWELVE STATUES T

FALLEN IDOLS: TWELVE STATUES T

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An Economist Best Book of the Year

In this timely and lively look at the act of toppling monuments, the popular historian and author of Blood and Sand explores the vital question of how a society remembers--and confronts--the past.

In 2020, history came tumbling down. From the US and the UK to Belgium, New Zealand, and Bangladesh, Black Lives Matter protesters defaced, and in some cases, hauled down statues of Confederate icons, slaveholders, and imperialists. General Robert E. Lee, head of the Confederate Army, was covered in graffiti in Richmond, Virginia. Edward Colston, a member of Parliament and slave trader, was knocked off his plinth in Bristol, England, and hurled into the harbor. Statues of Christopher Columbus were toppled in Minnesota, burned and thrown into a lake in Virginia, and beheaded in Massachusetts. Belgian King Leopold II was set on fire in Antwerp and doused in red paint in Ghent. Winston Churchill's monument in London was daubed with the word "racist." As these iconic effigies fell, the backlash was swift and intense.

But as the past three hundred years have shown, history is not erased when statues are removed. If anything, Alex von Tunzelmann reminds us, it is made.

Exploring the rise and fall of twelve famous, yet now controversial statues, she takes us on a fascinating global historical tour around North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia, filled with larger than life characters and dramatic stories. Von Tunzelmann reveals that statues are not historical records but political statements and distinguishes between statuary--the representation of "virtuous" individuals, usually "Great Men"--and other forms of sculpture, public art, and memorialization. Nobody wants to get rid of all memorials. But Fallen Idols asks: have statues had their day?

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: TRAVELI

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: TRAVELI

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Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty embarks on a global expedition to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Zoroastrian sky burials to wish-granting Bolivian skulls, she investigates the world's funerary customs and expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with dignity. Her account questions the rituals of the American funeral industry--especially chemical embalming--and suggests that the most effective traditions are those that allow mourners to personally attend to the body of the deceased. Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a fascinating tour through the unique ways people everywhere confront mortality.

HELL OF A BOOK

HELL OF A BOOK

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***2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER***

***THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER***

Winner of the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize Finalist, Willie Morris Award for Southern Writing Shortlist, and the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize


A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

An Ebony Magazine Publishing Book Club Pick!

One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction One of Philadelphia Inquirer's Best Books of 2021 One of Shelf Awareness's Top Ten Fiction Titles of the Year One of TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books One of NPR.org's Books We Love EW's Guide to the Biggest and Buzziest Books of 2021 One of the New York Public Library's Best Books for Adults San Diego Union Tribune--My Favorite Things from 2021 Writer's Bone's Best Books of 2021 Atlanta Journal Constitution--Top 10 Southern Books of the Year One of the Guardian's (UK) Best Ten 21st Century Comic Novels One of Entertainment Weekly's 15 Books You Need to Read This June On Entertainment Weekly's Must List One of the New York Post's Best Summer Reading books One of GMA's 27 Books for June One of USA Today's 5 Books Not to Miss One of Fortune's 21 Most Anticipated Books Coming Out in the Second Half of 2021 One of The Root's PageTurners: It's Getting Hot in Here One of Real Simple's Best New Books to Read in 2021

An astounding work of fiction from New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott, always deeply honest, at times electrically funny, that goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans and America as a whole

In Jason Mott's Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott's novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

As these characters' stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it's also about the nation's reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.

In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black  author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

As these characters’ stories build and build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind?  Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists it truly becomes its title.

How to Live Like a Monk

How to Live Like a Monk

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We know that they prayed, sang, and wore long robes, but what was it really like to be a monk? Though monastic living may seem unimaginable to us moderns, it has relevance for today. This book illuminates the day-to-day of medieval European monasticism, showing how you can apply the principles of monastic living, like finding balance and peace, to your life.

With wit and insight, medievalist and podcaster Daniele Cybulskie dives into the history of monasticism in each chapter and then reveals applications for today, such as the benefits of healthy eating, streamlining routines, gardening, and helping others. She shares how monks authentically embraced their spiritual calling, and were also down to earth: they wrote complaints about being cold in the manuscripts they copied, made beer and wine, and even kept bees.

How to Live Like a Monk features original illustrations by Anna Lobanova, as well as more than eighty color reproductions from medieval manuscripts. It is for anyone interested in the Middle Ages and those seeking inspiration for how to live a full life, even when we're confined to the cloister of our homes.

The Madwoman in the Attic

The Madwoman in the Attic

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"A feminist classic."--Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Review

"A pivotal book, one of those after which we will never think the same again."--Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Washington Post Book World

A pathbreaking book of literary criticism is now reissued with a new introduction by Lisa Appignanesi that speaks to how The Madwoman in the Attic set the groundwork for subsequent generations of scholars writing about women writers, and why the book still feels fresh some four decades later.

The Middle Ages and the Movies: Eight Key Films

The Middle Ages and the Movies: Eight Key Films

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From Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal to Monty Python, an investigation into how eight key films have shaped our understanding of the medieval world.

In The Middle Ages and the Movies, eminent historian Robert Bartlett takes a fresh, cogent look at how our view of medieval history has been shaped by eight significant films of the twentieth century. The book ranges from the concoction of sex and nationalism in Mel Gibson's Braveheart, to Fritz Lang's silent epic Siegfried, the art-house classic The Seventh Seal, and the epic historical drama El Cid. Bartlett examines the historical accuracy of these films, as well as other salient aspects--how was Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose translated from page to screen? Why is Monty Python and the Holy Grail funny? And how was Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky shaped by the Stalinist tyranny under which it was filmed?

What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year

What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year

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With unwavering humanity and light-footed humor, this intimate account of the interminable year of 2020 offers commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic, protests for racial justice, the U.S. presidential election, and more, all with a miraculous dose of groundedness in head-spinning times. From the award-winning book critic and best-selling author.

"This book is so funny and so true. Charles Finch unpacks a year of plague, fear, shameless venality, and dizzying stupidity with an irrepressible wit and surgically precise cultural observations. I didn't know how badly I needed exactly this. Maybe you do too?" —Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box

In March 2020, at the request of the
Los Angeles Times, Charles Finch became a reluctant diarist: As California sheltered in place, he began to write daily notes about the odd ambient changes in his own life and in the lives around him. The result is What Just Happened.

In a warm, candid, welcoming voice, and in the tradition of Woolf and Orwell, Finch brings us into his own world: taking long evening walks near his home in L.A., listening to music, and keeping virtual connections with friends across the country as they each experience the crisis. And drawing on his remarkable acuity as a cultural critic, he chronicles one endless year with delightful commentary on current events, and the things that distract him from current events: Murakami’s novels, reality television, the Beatles. 

What Just Happened is a work of empathy and insight, at once of-the-moment and timeless—a gift from one of our culture's most original thinkers.
Witchcraft. the Library of Esoterica

Witchcraft. the Library of Esoterica

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Initiating readers in the fascinating and complex history of witchcraft, from the goddess mythologies of ancient cultures to the contemporary embrace of the craft by modern artists and activists, this expansive tome conjures up a breathtaking overview of an age-old tradition. Rooted in legend, folklore, and myth, the archetype of the witch has evolved from the tales of Odysseus and Circe, the Celtic seductress Cerridwen, and the myth of Hecate, fierce ruler of the moonlit night. In Witchcraft we survey her many incarnations since, as she shape-shifts through the centuries, alternately transforming into mother, nymph, and crone--seductress and destroyer.

Edited by Jessica Hundley, and co-edited by author, scholar, and practitioner Pam Grossman, this enthralling visual chronicle is the first of its kind, a deep dive into the complex symbologies behind witchcraft traditions, as explored through the history of art itself. The witch has played muse to great artists throughout time, from the dark seductions of Francisco José de Goya and Albrecht Dürer to the elegant paean to the magickal feminine as re-imagined by the Surrealist circle of Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Leonor Fini. The witch has spellbound through folktales and dramatic literature as well, from the poison apples of The Brothers Grimm, to the Weird Sisters gathered at their black cauldron in Shakespeare's Macbeth, to L. Frank Baum's iconic Wicked Witch of the West, cackling over the fate of Dorothy.

Throughout this entrancing visual voyage, we'll also bear witness to the witch as she endures persecution and evolves into empowerment, a contemporary symbol of bold defiance and potent nonconformity. Featuring enlightening essays by modern practitioners like Kristen J. Sollée and Judika Illes, as well interviews with authors and scholars such as Madeline Miller and Juliet Diaz, Witchcraft includes a vast range of cultural traditions that embrace magick as spiritual exploration and creative catharsis.

About the series

The Library of Esoterica explores how centuries of artists have given form to mysticism, translating the arcane and the obscure into enduring, visionary works of art. Each subject is showcased through both modern and archival imagery culled from private collectors, libraries, and museums around the globe. The result forms an inclusive visual history, a study of our primal pull to dream and nightmare, and the creative ways we strive to connect to the divine.