Gallaudet University Library Book Review: The Word

Uploaded by jimthelibrarian on 01.04.2011

Hello! Before we go ahead with this vlog, I have a quick and exciting announcement to make!
As you may know, I've been dropping hints in this blog for a few weeks that we have big plans for this Library.
Well, I just found out that I can now tell you all about them!
Next Monday, April 4, 2011, at 9 a.m., we will break ground on our new Library building here on campus!
We are incredibly excited about this, and even more excited that we'll also be meeting our sustainability goals.
We'll go green! And also get our LEED certification. This will happen in two different ways.
First, we'll use recyclable materials to build the Library. That material will consist of wood pulp.
All 222,000 of our books will be ground up and mixed with concrete to create a light, but strong, material!
It'll be very well-insulated, so we'll save on heating and cooling costs. This means that there won't be
any windows or books, but we have a lot of computers, anyway!
The second way is by using no construction equipment. I know it sounds odd, but we've already been
in negotiations with MLB'S Washington Nationals baseball team. They've volunteered to come over and
build the entire new Library by hand!
It's not like they have anything better to do anyway.
Our projected completion date is around Spring 2013. We're all very excited and hope you are, too!
This vlog will be a bit longer than usual because I want to promote something.
In the last two posts, I've announced our research paper award for undergraduates.
If you're an undergraduate who's written a paper using Library resources in the past three semesters --
Spring and Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 -- that got a good grade, is well-written and well-structured, you
can submit it to us. We'll review it according to the criteria listed in the link below.
If we agree that your paper is the best, we'll tell the world on Awards Night later this month!
Everyone will know what a good writer you are. It's a pretty nice boost!
We'll also give you a $200 Barnes & Noble Gift card. It can buy a lot of books and coffee! It's pretty nice.
I do strongly recommend that you send something in. We love to know how you're doing and how you're
taking advantage of us!
Now, putting that aside, I'm going to review a book titled, simply, "The Word."
"The Word" is one of two books I've just finished reading. Both focus on writers and their thoughts
about the future of reading and writing, and the implications for our society in general.
"The Word" is a bit unique, though, because it focuses on African-American authors.
They talk about why reading is important not just to society in general, but also to the African-American community.
It consists of interviews of these authors that go in depth about their histories of reading, how they
started writing, and why it's all important to them in particular.
It includes some writers you may not have heard of, like Chinamanda Adichie and David Levering Lewis.
Probably one of the most famous, if not THE most famous, authors in this book is Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian refugee.
It's about their own stories, and their lives. There's a lot of variation.
Some of them grew up in reading households, while some didn't start until later in life.
One guy's story was about how when he was younger, he ended up in jail, pretty much automatically.
He said that the worst thing about jail is the boredom. You have nothing to do but sit all day.
But his jail had a book cart that went around the cells. He'd never been interested in reading before,
but one day, he was so bored he decided to look at the cart. A book cover caught his eye:
it had an African-American man on it. He'd never seen that before. So he grabbed it and read it.
That book was "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, a story about a young African-American man who must
cope with a society that doesn't work for him. So this writer read this book, and he realized for the first time
that there were actually books written about people like him! It provoked so much feeling that the only way
he could get it out was by writing, and that's how he started. I was fascinated by this story.
Another guy was a historian who studied the 19th Century, after the Civil War.
He focused on the first recorded African-American historian, about whom very little was known.
He was essentially a paragraph in a history book.
So our historian grew curious about him; what was his story? What was his life like? How did he work?
So for forty years, our historian really followed that first historian's life and travels throughout
Europe and Africa, following in his footsteps and gathering information about him.
He found out that this historian had died at the age of 40, which meant that he'd spent the same amount
of time studying this man as this man had lived!
I was blown away by the concept of spending forty years of your life on a single person, because he's
so important to the history of our culture in general.
I think it's an important book to read. A lot of the writers feel that reading is in decline, but is still
significant. I agree -- it's the same idea as the other book I read at the same time, about
Kindles and e-books and what's happening to reading in general.
It's not just about my job, but about my culture. And "The Word"'s perspective was different, from
the African-American side. It's a whole other culture within our own that you don't hear much about.
But it's so much a part of our history that it's important to know and understand.
So I really do recommend it. Next week's vlog will be about the other book, and it'll be a little different.
I'll see you then!