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Summer Reading: Our Kids

Our Kids

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
Robert D. Putnam
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015

Can we reduce inequality and improve the lives of America’s youth in a generation? This book, an exploration of inequality in the lives of American children, may be a cautionary tale in its sobering portrait of what happened in the author’s own lifetime. Robert Putnam grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and most of the kids in his hometown took advantage of all that the American dream had to offer and went on to live better than their parents. As he and his researchers studied working families all across the country, what they observed was increased separation between those with a college education and those without. Educated families have more stable jobs, parent differently, and live in vastly different neighborhoods, all of which adds up to greater advantages and more opportunities for their children. Of course, health problems, divorce, and other life traumas do not discriminate by class but upper middle class families have more resources and more social capital to draw on and a bigger cushion to protect them when they hit a rough patch.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

On View Now: The Summer of Love, from the Collections of The Bancroft Library

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, an exhibit in the corridor between Doe Library and The Bancroft Library features Bancroft’s rare and unique collections documenting the world-famous Bay Area counterculture of 1967.

Black and white photo of a crowd in Golden Gate Park watching a rock band on stage, with a "Love" banner among crowd.
[Unidentified band on stage, Summer Solstice, Golden Gate Park, June 21, 1967] Ted Streshinsky, photographer (BANC PIC 2004.132 M686-5, frame 34. Further reproduction prohibited: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/libraries/bancroft-library/rights-and-permissions)
Presented are images from the Bay Area alternative press, psychedelic rock posters and mailers, documentary photographs of the Haight-Ashbury scene and major rock concerts, material from the papers of poet Michael McClure, and text from Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” drawn from her papers and paired, for the first time since publication in the Saturday Evening Post, with photographs taken to accompany her essay.

A young hippie woman with feathers that look like antlers, in day glow face paint, Avalon Ballroom, 1967] Ted Streshinsky, photographer.
[A young hippie woman with feathers that look like antlers, in day glow face paint, Avalon Ballroom, 1967]  Ted Streshinsky, photographer. (BANC PIC 2004.132–LAN, box 14, file 258. Further reproduction prohibited: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/libraries/bancroft-library/rights-and-permissions)
Photographs by Ted Streshinsky, Michelle Vignes, Larry Keenan, and Stephen Shames are featured, as well as psychedelic art by Wilfried Sätty, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Stanley “Mouse” Miller, Lee Conklin, Bonnie MacLean, David Singer, and others. Publications and leaflets of the Underground Press Syndicate are also highlighted, with examples such as the Berkeley Barb, the Oracle, and the Communication Company as well as fliers from the Sexual Freedom League.

Psychedelic poster with spiral in blue and red.
Turn on Your Mind: Relax and Float Down Stream. Poster art by Wilfried Sätty. (Henri Lenoir pictorial collection, BANC PIC 2004.158–D, folder 5. Further reproduction prohibited: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/libraries/bancroft-library/rights-and-permissions )

This exhibit, prepared by Chris McDonald and James Eason of the Bancroft Library Pictorial Unit will be on view through Fall 2017.


Summer Reading: Disposable People

Disposable People

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy
Kevin Bales
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004

If you knew nothing about modern day slavery, you might think that a writer investigating the subject would need to go to extraordinary lengths to find any human beings still living as chattel slaves in the Twenty-First Century. Maybe put on a disguise and infiltrate a remote compound, far from the reach of any civil authority. That’s what I thought before I read Kevin Bales’ book, Disposable People. What I learned, though, is that modern day slave economies operate openly, all over the world, and that as many as 25 million people in the world–right now, today–live in slavery.

Modern day slaves might be farmers, miners, brick makers, or textile workers. They might live in India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mauritania, or Brazil. They are part of the global economy, and the products of their labor can be found all over the world, maybe even in your own home.

Bales, though, doesn’t just set out to horrify the reader with the scope and reach of modern day slavery. He also provides, in the book’s last two chapters, suggestions for actions that concerned citizens–and consumers–can take to help eradicate slavery from our world.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Library featured in The Mercury News

Writable glass wall in the Moffitt Library
Writeable glass walls are used by students in the newly-reimagined Moffitt Library. (Photo by Cade Johnson for the University Library)

This week, an article in The Mercury News outlines the changes afoot in Bay Area university libraries, including those here at UC Berkeley. It describes recent updates to Moffitt Library, including writeable glass walls, moveable furniture, and napping pods, and identifies “the changes that aren’t as flashy and easy to spot.”

“Libraries are helping students, faculty and staff navigate an increasingly complicated digital world,” the article explains.

Other less-visible developments include the many new services offered by librarians.

“As textbook costs soar, librarians are helping professors design courses around open source material,” the article continues. “They’re also beginning to serve as bridges between different departments and disciplines, so an English student reading Jane Austen can learn the data and mapping skills to, say, plot and analyze the places she mentions in a particular book.”

Summer Reading: Tomatoland


Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
Barry Estabrook
Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011

Estabrook’s book brings to light the costs of growing tomatoes in Florida, in terms of both environmental and labor practices. As an example of the new “politics of food” movement, it is an especially accessible account of the deep and troubling backstory behind the mainstream American diet.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

California magazine: Five questions for University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason

Jeff MacKie-Mason
UC Berkeley University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason. (Photo by Max Whittaker for the University Library)

“Most of the world’s scholarly, high-quality, knowledge-rich information is not freely available on the Internet,” explains University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason in a recent interview with California, the UC Berkeley Alumni Association magazine. “You might be able to find it via Google, but you’ll have to pay for it. At Berkeley, we spend $20 million a year to purchase or license information resources that are not freely available: Our students and faculty couldn’t do that themselves!”

In the California interview, MacKie-Mason discusses how the Library’s growing collection of electronic resources enhances the enormous print collections, and reiterates the importance of the Library as an essential provider of knowledge and information in the Internet age.

The Library’s commitment to increasing information literacy is also on display: in response to a question about the proliferation of “fake news,” MacKie-Mason describes the importance of learning to “evaluate and discern information quality” in an environment where the historical barriers to publishing have been eliminated.

Read the full interview.

Summer Reading: Native Speaker

Native Speaker

Native Speaker
Chang-rae Lee
New York: Riverhead Books, 1995

Chang-rae Lee’s beautifully written first novel, Native Speaker, follows the life of Henry Park—born on an airplane ride en route from Korea to the United States. Set in New York City, this unconventional spy novel chronicles Henry’s astute, methodical observations of the people in his life and the languages they speak. Henry’s assignment to spy on a Korean-American candidate for mayor pushes Henry to ask difficult questions about his own identity and immigrant politics. Lee explores race and relationships, alienation and assimilation, morality and personal gain, the personal and public—revealing the complexities of what it means to be first-generation American.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Hag-Seed


Margaret Atwood
New York: Hogarth, 2016

A modern update to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, told from the perspective of a theater director who has been ousted from his post, and is plotting his revenge on his enemies while/through teaching Shakespeare-in-performance to prisoners, written by one of the best authors of our time. (And a good opportunity to revisit The Handmaid’s Tale.)

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Nonsense


Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
Jamie Holmes
New York: Crown Publishers, 2015

The very real perils and consequences of jumping to conclusions, of feeling total certainty and confidence, and the power of being able to handle ambiguity. (John Keats called this “Negative capability,” and he saw it most vividly in Shakespeare’s writing.) Told through a series of case studies ranging from the workplace to personal life. If our modern condition is one of unpredictability and increasing complexity, Holmes’ lessons for “how to deal with what we don’t understand” are particularly urgent.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Matthew Desmond
New York: Crown Publishers, 2016

The day-to-day experiences of landlords, tenants, movers, sheriffs, and others wrapped up in the economy of eviction. A great companion to last year’s On the Same Page pick, Just Mercy; at one point, Desmond writes, “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.” Desmond makes the compelling case that stable housing is a precondition for civic engagement and democracy, because civic life begins at home, and is rooted in a community. After telling the unforgettable stories of a few to illustrate the plight of millions of Americans, he devotes the epilogue to making broader policy recommendations that aim to break the cycle of eviction.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

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