The Future Library of Norway

Forest.Library

The Future Library of Norway is an environmental, literary, and artistic project designed by Scottish artist, Katie Paterson. In 2014, 1,000 trees were planted in Norway. Once a year for the next one hundred years, one writer will be chosen to contribute an original work, which will not be read until 2114. That year, the fully-grown forest will be chopped down and used as paper to publish an anthology of the writers’ pieces.  

In 2014, Margaret Atwood was chosen to be the first Future Library author. “For me, it’s the great unknown,” the Canadian writer states, “but it’s a very hopeful gesture. It means somewhere in the future there will still be readers. There will still be people. There’ll still be a forest in Norway. There will still be a library.” The only information available about Atwood’s book is the title, Scribbler Moon.

Since 2014, David Mitchell, Sjón, Elif Shafak, and Han Kang have been chosen to contribute to the Future Library. South Korean writer Han Kang dragged a white cloth through the forest before wrapping it around her book. In Korea, white cloth is traditionally used to clothe newborn babies and those recently deceased. In an interview, Kang stated, “it was like a wedding of my manuscript with this forest. Or a lullaby for a century-long sleep, softly touching the earth all the way. So, this is time to say goodbye.” Her book, named Dear Son, My Beloved, will not be read by any human for 95 years. 

The next author to join the Future Library will be selected later this year. 

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Who, What, Where, When, and Why Context Matters

shutterstock_87008525The question on the minds of most young readers is, “why does this matter?” I remember asking the same question when I was their age. As a high school English teacher, I have struggled with formulating a uniform answer to this question. I believe that the answer is five-fold: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? Without answers for these five integral questions, readers of all ages find it hard to connect with their reading material, whether it be fiction or journalism. In this internet age, how can a teacher connect students to stories of the past? My answer: contextualization.

Context matters for a multitude of reasons. For decades To Kill a Mockingbird has been a staple in high school English classes across the US. In teaching this text, I found that my students needed to know who wrote it, what the story was about, where it was set, and when it was written and when the story is taking place before they could ever begin to answer the question of why. This realization forced me to employ a cross-curricular approach and give my students a fair amount of background knowledge of the time period. Using photos from the 1930s and primary sources to offer perspective on the lives of real people allowed my students to build a bridge of empathy to the past. Without context, any reader would be adrift in a sea of words.

While literature of a different time period can be unwieldy for young students, especially, that speeches and nonfiction articles require the same attention. In this social media-driven world where anyone can seem like a journalist, it vital that students develop the necessary critical thinking skills to determine the validity of the source. Epistemology is defined as the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. It is also said to be the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Readers must all be vigilant in their quest for knowledge but be wary of its source. It is all-too-easy to read something online and quote it later only to learn that the information is false. For this task, I have my students employ the same Five W’s of investigation. Who wrote the article? What new facts does the article present, and is it easily verifiable through similar sources? Where was it written or, rather what is the journalistic source of this information? I might even suggest that readers consider where the funding for the article is coming from. When was the article written? Lastly, Why was the article written? In other words, was the article or speech written to persuade the reader to action, to inform the reader, or otherwise convince the reader of the validity of an opinion?

No matter the age of the reader, or the subject material, context matters. If one were to take an excerpt from an interview or speech and present it without any of the words surrounding it, it would very easy for the meaning to be lost. The same can be said of any piece of fiction that reflects the era in which it was written. Without knowledge of how that author lived, the politics of their time, or the cultural attitude of the time, it is extremely difficult to read with much clarity or at any great depth.

 

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The Language of Photography

Lotter by Emily Bunn

Photography is a means of visual storytelling. Even a single moment captured in time allows the viewer to access and interpret an entire story.  Much like one’s brain puts words together to create meaning, photographs can be placed together to create equally powerful narratives.

The “decisive moment” is a term coined by Henri Cartier Bresson, an early photographer who photographed throughout the entire twentieth century. The decisive moment is an exact instance in time when a photograph is taken, wherein which the image represents the essence of the event in its entirety. Taking this image requires the brain (knowledge of what is going on), the heart (understanding the emotion felt during the scene at play), and the hand (in order to click the shutter to capture the image) to all work in congruence simultaneously. Having the knowledge to understand and interpret one’s environment as well as having a strong sense of one’s own intuition are both equally important in creating an image. When done successfully, a still photo can show, not tell (as all writers must do as well in their writing) the emotion and situation of their captured moment.

Though a single photograph can garner endless interpretations, a photo series can give viewers even more insight into a photographer’s story. Collections of images put together can tell complex tales by showing the progression of a subject or scene. In one’s own home, photo albums of family members on holidays, birthdays, weddings and other landmark events show the progression of an individual through life. Capturing images of one’s closest friends, passions, and favorite places can also tell stories about where one exists in the timeline of their own life. What may seemingly appear like a collection of random images can easily be rearranged and presented as a photo series. How these images are put together can tell a multitude of stories about oneself. In turn, when viewed by an audience, these images can speak endless stories to viewers about their own lives, thoughts, and relationships.

The ability to tell stories within a silent medium can reverberate through the minds and hearts of viewers deafeningly. Images are singular moments captured in time that can speak to experiences both past, present, and future. While photographs can tell a photograph’s story, the interpretations by the photographer’s audience can tell a thousand more. Photography is a language understood by all, communicated between photographer, their camera, and their viewers.

Photography by Emily Bunn

 

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The Stigma Surrounding Young Adult Literature

Books.Blog

What factors are considered when choosing what to teach in a high school curriculum? In a course called Adolescent Literature I took earlier this year at Brown University, my professor, Laura Snyder, introduced me to the acronym RRSSVP to measure text complexity.  In any given book, are the relationships among ideas and characters involved or embedded? Is there richness, in other words, does the text possesses mature information through literary devices? Is the structure organized in ways that are elaborate or unusual? Is the style intricate? Is the vocabulary difficult and context-dependent? Lastly, is the author’s purpose implicit and sometimes ambiguous? If these are the factors that make a text complex enough to teach, there is no reason why all books that students read need to come from a classic High School Literary Canon in which the median publication year is 1915.

A high school teacher gave a talk in the same Adolescent Literature class. She mentioned how she used to teach these classic books but stopped because her students didn’t enjoy them as they couldn’t connect to them. She changed her entire curriculum to adolescent literature and the results were extraordinary. Everyone passed, reading scores were off the charts, and the student’s love of reading grew immensely because they could actually relate to situations that were present in the stories they were assigned. Although there are certain benefits to reading classic authors, most students are not affected by renaissance upper-class drama or someone being killed in a guillotine, simply because it seems so archaic and far away. They are, however, deeply moved by novels such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which include stories of police violence, racialized poverty, and the search for identity. Young adult books are surrounded by a stigma of immaturity, but according to the previously mentioned factors, contemporary young adult fiction still contains the same messages and literary complexity as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Dickens, while also representing important racial, political, and economic struggles children face in our world today.

There is still an immense amount of growth and development that needs to happen in the Young Adult Literature community. Though the number of novels written about diverse groups has increased, many of these stories are written by white authors, and the publishing community is still predominantly focused on white, middle-class stories. Additionally, contemporary young adult fiction gives insight into real-life trauma of today’s youth, but many of these topics are considered “taboo” and are still being banned from classrooms all over the world. By using these stories in an academic setting, young adult literature has the potential to give a voice to silent or underrepresented communities and start conversations that can lead to a more informed and accepting generation.

 

Examples of young adult novels that are being taught in schools today:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Gabi A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Additionally, graphic novels such as:

  • Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

 

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The Language of Dancewear

Language is an important tool that dominates our everyday ideas and ideals. These ideas and ideals are especially important in marketing. However, in a time of supposed equality, the language used to sell items changes dramatically if a company wishes to pander to the feminine market or the masculine market. This remains true even in the areas of the arts such as dance and the language used to sell dancewear.

A Bit About Dance and Dancewear

image1-3Dance styles: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and ballroom dancing all have different types of dancewear associated with them. Most of these dance styles have a strict uniform for both female and male dancers. In many dance stores, the ratio of women’s dancewear and men’s dancewear is skewed in favor of the traditional female dancer. Speaking for personal experience as a sales associate in a dancewear store, this skew towards female dancers often discourages young male dancers from wanting to enter a dancewear store, even if it’s to get something as simple as a new pair of dance shoes. Online stores improve this situation by providing a larger selection of dancewear. Unfortunately, sizing in the online market for dancewear is different than within the physical store. Often trying on items can be more time consuming when done at home instead of in a retail store. Since male dancers are more likely to shop online than in the store, many retail stores struggle to see a need to improve their selection for men.

Women’s dancewear description

Online dancewear retailers are often creative with their descriptions. With the lack of time and a large selection provided online, the descriptions tend to be repetitive and tailored toward women. We can see this within CoCo Chanel and their phrasing such as:

“Coco Chanel knew best when she said, ‘Modesty is the highest elegance.’ This reigns true when you wear the Long Sleeve Unitard. Our best-selling unitard features a moderate scoop front and back.”

“Style icon, Audrey Hepburn knew best when she said, ‘Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.’ This reigns true when wearing the Georgette Long Wrap Skirt made of delicate chiffon.”

These generic descriptions feed into the idea that companies believe female dancers only care about how they look. This helps create the many different variations of the same thing we see in the store, with only minor differences to help with the comfort level of the garments.

image2-2.jpegMen’s dancewear description

When the same online marketers are creating the copy for men’s dancewear, they focus almost exclusively on highlighting comfort and utilitarian function. Sometimes, they only state the bare facts about the item. The reasoning behind this is rooted in the idea that masculine dancers do not care about looks, which affects both how much is offered to these dancers and creates a harsh stigma when a male dancer tries to break away from the monotone color palette of black and white. With the hundreds of different style and color options that female dancers have, it is only right that male dancers are given the same opportunity to stand out and put their best foot forward. In the New York City Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the United States, the only category where male dancers outnumber female dancers is at the Principal level, the highest level a dancer can achieve in a company. Ballet and other dance forms need strong male dancers and until something changes, the stigma will remain the way it is and some of the best male dancers will be lost before they have even given this wonderful art form a try.

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Abortion

“Prosecutors dismissed a manslaughter charge against an Alabama woman who was indicted for “intentionally” causing the death of her fetus after someone else shot her in the abdomen. The decision follows the arrest of Marshae Jones, 28, who was charged on the allegation that she started a scuffle that led to her being shot by another woman. The fight took place in a parking lot in Pleasant Grove, just outside Birmingham.” -NPR reports

As you may have seen on the news state by state controversies about abortion clinics have been on the rise. But what is abortion, how is it legal, why is it important, and which states have these controversies?

According to Merriam Webster the definition of abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.

So what is the most recent case of abortion being legal? That would be the 1973 Roe V Wade case. According to the ACLU or the American Civil Liberties Union, “The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.”

However, this was not the first time abortion had been legal within the United States. Abortion was practiced throughout the United States until the early 1800’s. Abortion is also not a modern practice. According to Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander, article “Medical Abortion Practices”, “Abortion is undoubtedly an ancient practice. The records of almost every civilization indicate knowledge of abortifacient agents and abortive techniques. Among primitive people, these were gruesome when practiced in the extreme, and remain so among certain tribes today. One tribe encouraged large ants to bite the woman’s body, and on occasion the insects were taken internally.'” Gross traumatization of the pregnant abdomen was a popular method of attempting to induce abortion and is still used by some primitive groups. The early Hebrews knew abortive techniques although they strongly disapproved of the practice. The Greeks, on the other hand advocated abortion in order to control population size and insure good social and economic conditions among the people.” Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander continues to write that “Plato and Aristotle dearly encouraged abortion on social or economic grounds. Hippocrates practiced abortion but wanted only physicians to abort patients.”

However, this legal abortion practiced in the ancient world came to an end during the early 1800’s. The United States in particular, has continued the recent trend of outlawing abortion. According to Dr. Acevedo, the United States followed this trend of anti-abortion primarily because the attitude of abortion was reflected from the colonies original controlled country. The British colonies abortions were legal if they were performed prior to quickening. In the French colonies abortions were frequently performed despite the fact that they were considered to be illegal. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies abortion was illegal. From 1776 until the mid-1800s abortion was viewed as socially unacceptable; however, abortions were not illegal in most states. Most of these laws were ambiguous and difficult to enforce. To enforce these laws abortion was criminalized by the late 1880’s.

In fact, between 1880 and 1965 criminalization of abortion did not reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. It only increased the maternal death rates of the illegal abortions received. According to Guttmacher institute of policy review “Special Analysis on Abortion” In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.

As I write this article there are 9 states that have passed bills to limit the ability for women to access abortion services. The states are as follows:

Ohio

Utah

Missouri

Kentucky

Arkansas

Louisiana

Mississippi

Alabama

Georgia.

Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio stopped short of outright bans, instead passing bills banning abortion from six to eight weeks of pregnancy. This is effectively outright banning abortion since most women discover they are pregnant between four to seven weeks.

These are not the only states to enact bans however these are just the most stringent bans. According to the ACLU there are thirty-one states that have some sort of restriction which are as follows:

AL, AK, AZ, AR, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NM, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WI.

While these historical statistics are favored by the pro-choice movement, the anti-choice movement has created its own narrative. Instead of rephrasing statistics, the antichoice movement has dedicated themselves to making the movement to challenge an individual’s moral compass. While the pro-choice movement has relied on statistics and historical data —the antichoice movement has relied on a combination of religious texts, romantic language, and few of any statistics.

We can see the use of religious texts to support antichoice decisions through the language of law makers:

 

“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Tweet from Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey

“Jeremiah 1:5 says, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you,’” Inhofe continued. “To everyone who comes to the March for Life, know that we hear you and we are standing with you, just as we have in the past.” JIM INHOFE using bible verses for his speech at March for life.

To further energize the antichoice movement, journalists and activists will use emotional rhetoric as persuasive tools. Famous examples of this emotional rhetoric used: Rush Limbaugh, Tammy Lauren, and Bill O’riley.

Each uses strong romantic-emotional language when persuading viewers. An example from Rush Limbaugh:

“RUSH: Yes, I do. I think we are facing a World War II-like circumstance in the sense that, as then, it is today: Western Civilization is at stake. I made the statement a couple days ago talking about the race that we are in, the race being led by the attorney general, William Barr, and his prosecutor, John Durham from Connecticut. We’re in a race with the people that ran this silent coup to get rid of Donald Trump. We’re in a race to get to the finish line first. Who will expose this or who will get away with this?”

Each description of the situation is in active voice and each adjective used is over exaggerated. There is no “invasion” at the southern border nor is there an actual “race” or “coup” in our politics. But these words catch the attention of listeners and are routinely used as key phrases and repeated when provided with conflicting information.

While the news may cover the various states that have the most stringent laws the proliferation of emotional rhetoric instead of statistics is becoming more popularized. I hope with these statistics and evidence the reader will be able to discover and reanalyze the data that has been given to you. Below are the list of websites and articles that I have pulled from:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abortion

(Definition of abortion)

https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-history-roe-v-wade-era

(Roe v Wade)

https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4360&amp=&context=caselrev&amp=&sei-redir=1&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.bing.com%252Fsearch%253Fq%253Dpractice%252Bof%252Blegal%252Babortion%252Bin%252Bthe%252Bunited%252Bstates%252Bbefore%252Bthe%252B1800%2526FORM%253DAWRE%2526PC%253DAPPL#search=%22practice%20legal%20abortion%20united%20states%20before%201800%22

(History of Abortion)

https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue

(Death rates)

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/abortion-laws-states.html

(Current stringent bans)

https://www.aclu.org/other/abortion-bans-states#1

(Any bans)

https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/early-pregnancy-symptoms/

(Knowledge of pregnancy)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10297561

(1800s and the colonies)

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An Independence Day Best-Seller

91HDSbQeLxLWith the Fourth of July just around the corner, there could not have been a better time for Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Jon Meacham, and celebrated country music star Tim McGraw to release their book, Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation. Originally published on June 11, 2019 the novel reached the New York Times Best Seller list last week– just in time for Independence Day. Though a seemingly unlikely pair, real life Nashville neighbors Meacham and McGraw worked together to unpack both well-known and abstract music that has shaped the United States. Meacham speaks of the historical significance behind certain songs from the American Revolution to modern day, and McGraw focuses on the singers and composers themselves. By touching on the lives of figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan, while including songs such as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” and “Born in the U.S.A,” both authors shed light on the cultural and political impact music has had on the United States over time. In a note to the reader at the start of the book, the authors state how they

“hope that The Songs of America is the opening, not the closing, act in a conversation about the nation’s diversity and complexity. For that’s among the reasons we undertook the project: to inspire Americans to think more widely and more deeply about the country Abraham Lincoln called ‘the last best hope of earth.”

 Hopefully, this book will not only spark your Fourth of July reading, but push you to consider the history of our nation, how our story has evolved, and the ways in which we want to compose our future.

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