Friday, January 19, 2018

Free Tax Prep Assistance and Forms at Birmingham Public Library

stock image of tax form

Please check back for updates.

As a service to the community, the Birmingham Public Library provides some copies of current federal and Alabama tax forms, instructions, and publications. The following forms/booklets will be available on or around January 29 in the Government Documents Department at the Central Library: Federal: 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms/booklets only; State: 40 and 40NR forms and instruction booklets. Please call the department to make sure that the form(s) you need is available. All other forms and instructions can be found online at

Federal Forms
IRS forms and publications

State Forms
Alabama Department of Revenue

General Resources
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - This governmental site has United States federal income tax forms, information, and tips. Includes warnings about tax frauds and scams, information about filling online, and the ability to track the status of your refund.

Free File Home: Your Link to Free Online Filing - This IRS site is about Free File, an "online tax preparation and electronic filing through a partnership agreement between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, LLC. In other words, you can e-file... free." This site explains eligibility requirements for this free service, steps to get started, and a list of related FAQs.

Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers - Information about the Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program, which offer free tax help if you qualify. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, many sites also offer free electronic filing (e-filing).


Free Tax Prep Assistance at the Birmingham Public Library
Impact America provides free tax preparation services for households earning up to $54,000 with one or more children in the home, or $20,000 without children in the home. You must call 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-998-2925) for an appointment; no walk-ins will be assisted. For information on scheduling an appointment and what documents you need to bring with you, visit Services are provided by IRS-certified Volunteer Tax Preparers from local colleges in the cities where our tax sites are located. Impact Alabama is sponsored by SaveFirst.

Smithfield Branch Library
January 20-April 16, 2018
January and February
Mondays and Tuesdays, 12:00-8:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.)
March and April
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library 
January 18-March 3, 2018
Tuesdays, 11:45 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (No assistance available on February 17)

West End Branch Library
January 19-March 3, 2018
Mondays, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Fridays, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Woodlawn Branch Library
January 24-⁠March 3, 2018
Wednesdays, 12:00-6:00 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays, 12:00-6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Road to Super Bowl LII

NFL Playoffs

The NFL Playoffs are underway and we are one weekend of football away from determining the matchup for Super Bowl LII. The interesting thing about this year’s playoffs is not only who competed, but also who didn’t make the playoffs.  In the NFC, three out of four teams from the NFC South Division (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, & New Orleans Saints) advanced to the playoffs, but none were able to advance to the NFC Championship Game.  This season’s playoffs did not include the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals or Green Bay Packers, although the Packers competed in last season’s NFC Championship Game.  The Saints and Panthers faced each other in the Wild Card Round with New Orleans emerging as the victor.  The Falcons won their Wild Card matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.  Despite having chances to win late in the fourth quarter, neither the Falcons (vs. Eagles) nor the Saints (vs. Vikings) were able to secure a victory to advance to the NFC Championship Game.  Instead, the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings will compete to go to Super Bowl LII.

The AFC featured the usual suspects (New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs), so I guess the biggest surprise was the absence of the Houston Texans who made it to the Divisional Round last season.  In the Wild Card Round, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Kansas City Chiefs only to get throttled by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.  The Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Buffalo Bills in a low-scoring game (10-3) that only had one touchdown.  In the Divisional Round, however, the Jaguars put 45 points on the board (45-42) to prevent the Pittsburgh Steelers from returning to the AFC Championship Game.  They will face last year’s Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.  Although the Jaguars produced a thrilling victory against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, they will face a monumental challenge seeking a win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.   

Since 2002, only one team, the New York Giants, has prevented the New England Patriots from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy once they reach the Super Bowl.  Peyton Manning's teams (Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos) had a lot of success keeping the Patriots out of the Super Bowl, but will the Jaguars have what it takes to beat Tom Brady's Patriots at home?  I'm excited to see who emerges from the NFC Championship Game because I have a feeling they will be facing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.  Enjoy the games.

CANCELLED: Money Matters Workshop – Empower Yourself Financially Scheduled for January 17 at Central Library

The January 17 "Empower Yourself Financially" workshop has been cancelled. The next workshop is scheduled for February 21—"Maximize Your Personal Wealth."

The Birmingham Public Library is partnering again this year with UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education to offer a series of Money Matters workshops to be held each month at our Central location. Each of the workshops covers a different topic, but all are designed to help you gain a better understanding of your personal finances and begin making a plan for the future.

All workshops will be held in the Youth Department’s Story Castle, which is located on 2nd floor of the Central Library. Representatives from the Regions Institute for Financial Education in UAB’s Collat School of Business will serve as instructors for each of the workshops.

What: Money Matters workshop series
When: Third Wednesday of the Month, October 2017 thru May 2018
Time: 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Birmingham Public Library – Central Library, Youth Department, 2nd floor, Story Castle

To learn more about the workshop series as well as other personal finance resources available at BPL, contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Below is a listing of the Money Matters workshop series by month through May 2018. The workshops are held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, with the exception of the one scheduled for December 2017, which will be held on the 2nd Wednesday.

1/17/2018 – Empower Yourself Financially
2/21/2018 – Maximize Your Personal Wealth
3/21/2018 – Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
4/18/2018 – Understanding Taxes
5/16/2018 – Your Credit Report

Book Review: The Last Black Unicorn

by Tracy Simpson, Pratt City Branch Library

The Last Black Unicorn
Tiffany Haddish

Tune in to any talk show today and you will more than likely see the face of breakout comedian Tiffany Haddish discussing her new book, The Last Black Unicorn. While Haddish has been in the comedic world for several years, she became widely recognized after her recent role in the blockbuster movie Girls Trip. As a fan of Haddish I was anxious to read her memoir in order to learn more about her road to success and with hopes that she would inject some of her signature, side-splitting humor; Haddish definitely did not disappoint!

From foster care to homelessness, Haddish manages to turn some of the harshest experiences she endured into comical stories. Haddish learned early on that comedy and her ability to get others to laugh was not only a gift which allowed her to make money, but also a tool she could use to be "accepted" by others, and to help her deal with some difficult situations. With raw honesty Haddish writes about her life experiences, many of which are hard to believe. Haddish prepares readers early on with a warning that one part of the book will be difficult to read, which is the chapter where she discusses the details of her abusive marriage. Haddish also openly discusses the physical and emotional abuse she suffered from her mother as a child (and as an adult), which in part was a result of a traumatic brain injury her mother experienced after a car accident.

One of the most compelling stories Haddish shares is how she managed to get all the way to the ninth grade without being able to read. However, with the help of one dedicated teacher and a caring grandmother, Haddish overcame that obstacle along with many others. In the memoir Haddish reflects back on periods when she was the highly sought after "hype man" for local Bar Mitzvah celebrations in her early years, up to meeting and working with celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. Haddish also shares experiences about the unfair treatment she received as a female comedienne compared to her male counterparts. As difficult as some of the stories about the abuse she suffered were to read, Haddish manages always to see the bright side of everything and turn tragedies into triumphs with a laugh and a smile.

The Last Black Unicorn is a quick read which will have you crying with tears from sadness one minute, and with tears of laughter the next. Haddish’s ability to talk about difficult subjects such as domestic violence, disabilities, mental illness, and misogyny with such candor makes this memoir a must read! Also, check out her movie, Girls Trip for more side-splitting entertainment.

Inglenook Library to Host Appreciation for Women Event Focusing on Healthy Marriages on January 19

Authors Eddie and Alethea Fells

On Friday, January 19, at 6:30 p.m., the Inglenook Branch Library’s bi-monthly program, An Expression of Appreciation for the Women of Inglenook Community, will focus on building healthy marriages.

This month's theme is “Relationship Goals” and will feature a talk from Alethea and Eddie Fells III, award-winning authors of Till Death Do Us Part: Chronicles of a Christian Marriage. The authors will lead a discussion on how couples can build a positive, healthy relationship.

An Expression of Appreciation for the Women of the Inglenook Community is a bi-monthly program at Inglenook Library that arose from a need to provide women who either work or live in the Inglenook community with an environment of empowerment and relaxation while addressing issues that affect them daily. The first program was held in May 2017 and has since averaged almost 20 women per program, said Karnecia Williams, branch manager of Inglenook Library. “Women who attend are excited about the programs and have even established a bond amongst themselves,” she said.

Birmingham Public Library grants coordinator Melvia Walton explains
how to write and apply for grants 
Last year, the program won Inglenook Library an Innovative & Cool Award, a Birmingham Public Library Board of Trustees award which funds innovative programs at BPL’s 19 locations that provide valuable services for patrons. The November 2017 program centered on Thanksgiving, and the September theme was "Minding My Own Business," which focused on how women can open their own business and write grants to support their business.

In July the theme was "All About Me," featuring a hair stylist and representative from Mary K Cosmetics sharing tips on how women can take care of their outward appearance. In May the Inglenook Library hosted a program focused on inspiring women from within.

For more information, call Williams at 205-849-8739 or visit the Inglenook Library. In addition to the women of Inglenook appreciation program, the library offers several other free activities to benefit the community including:

Branch manager Karnecia Williams leads a discussion at the Readers
Are Leaders Book Club for teens and tweens
Girls of Promise with Purpose – This afterschool program for youth meets the first Monday of every month. Led by volunteer Elvira Davis, this program teaches young ladies how to build self-esteem, proper etiquette and how to properly carry themselves.

BPL @ YOUR SCHOOL – Inglenook Library delivers books each month to Inglenook K-8 School.

Readers Are Leaders Book Club – A monthly book club for preteens and teens.

Coding classes – Free coding classes after school that teaches youth coding and other technology skills.

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Age Online Application Process/Interview Bootcamp Workshop January 22 at Central Library

What: New Age Online Application Process/Interview Bootcamp Workshop
When: Monday, January 22, 2018
Time: 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: New Age Online Application Process/Interview Bootcamp. Free and open to the public; no registration necessary.

Choosing a career is not any easy undertaking. Likewise, once you’ve chosen a career, finding a job can be a pretty difficult task as well. When you consider that throughout your lifetime you spend more hours at your job than you do anywhere else, you really need to put the time and effort into making good decisions in regards to career selection and job searching. This is not only true for young people who are entering the job market for the first time, but also for adults who are either reentering the job market after an absence, looking for a new job, or are contemplating a career change. If you fall into any of these categories, then you should plan to attend the Birmingham Public Library’s Vocational Readiness workshops.

Each of these workshops will cover different parts of the job searching process, but participants are encouraged to attend both because the second workshop builds on the content presented in the first. Here are the descriptions of the workshops:

Monday January 22, 2018 – New Age Online Application Process/Interview Bootcamp
  • New Age Online Application Process offers tips and suggestions to guide all job seekers in successfully completing online employment applications.
  • Interview Bootcamp teaches techniques to help you emphasize your skills, overcome objections, and build rapport with your job interviewer.
The workshops presenter is Tina Thornton. Tina is a professional counselor and founder of Gem Kreations, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting those who have experienced adverse circumstances realize their full personal and professional potential.

For more information about the workshops, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Genealogy Workshops in January at the Central Library

With 2018 underway, the Birmingham Public Library’s Southern History Department is making a few changes to dates of its popular genealogy workshops, but also added a few new classes.

The Introduction to Genealogy classes will be moving to Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops will now be held on Sunday afternoons.

Below is a listing of upcoming workshops the Southern History Department will be hosting. Workshops are free of charge but registration is requested (with the exception of the Introduction to Genealogy classes). Register online through the BPL events calendar or call 205-226-3665.

January 13, 10:00-11:00 a.m., Central Library/Southern History Department
Introduction to Genealogy – Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will help get you started on your genealogical journey. No registration required.

January 22, 2:15-3:15 p.m., Central Library/Computer Lab
Your Tax Dollars at Work: Using Government Websites for Genealogy Research – Many government agencies offer resources for genealogical research. Learn how to look beyond census records and find genealogical information in some truly surprising places. You can search for service records and land grants, view web tutorials, and much more using free websites from the state and federal government. To register, please call 205-226-3680.

January 24, 3:00-4:00 p.m., Central Library/Southern History Department
Introduction to Genealogy – Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will help get you started on your genealogical journey. No registration required.

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop schedule for 2018

February 25, 2:30 p.m., Central Library/Arrington Auditorium
The Beyond Kin Project: Making the Slave Connection – Project cofounders Donna Cox Baker and Frazine K. Taylor will teach a software method and research techniques for handling the unique complexities of plantation genealogy. Descendants of both slaveholders and enslaved persons will learn how to find and account for the under-documented and often nameless plantation members using common genealogy tools.

March 25, 2:30 p.m., Central Library/Arrington Auditorium
Nosing Around in Newspapers
Newspapers can be a genealogist’s best friend with the wealth of information found within its pages, but also a frustrating source. Learn how to locate the newspapers you need and how to efficiently search them to discover everything from an obituary to a scandalous news story involving your ancestor.

April 15, 2:30 p.m., Central Library/Arrington Auditorium
Understanding DNA Ethnicity Test Results
Discover how DNA testing companies determine ethnicity percentages and what these estimates mean in terms of your genealogy.

May 20, 2:30 p.m., Central Library/Arrington Auditorium
“Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier”: Military Records in Family History Research
Did one of your ancestors go to war? Explore the major repositories and databases for military records and discover how they can contribute vital information for your family history research.

For more information about BPL’s Southern History Department, go to or like its Facebook page at

Book Review: The Couple Next Door

by Tracy Simpson, Pratt City Branch Library

The Couple Next Door Shari Lapena

It started out with what was to be a night of celebration but soon became a kidnapping/murder investigation! Anne and Marco Conti are what appear to be the perfect loving couple, with Anne a stay-at-home mom taking care of their beautiful six-month-old baby girl Cora, and loving and dedicated husband Marco, working hard to support his perfect family. Or is it too perfect?

Anne and Marco are invited to a dinner party/birthday celebration with their next door neighbors, Cynthia and her husband Graham. With Cynthia not being fond of babies and making this a “no babies” gathering, Marco and Anne must decide what to do once their babysitter cancels at the last minute. With some persuasion Anne agrees with Marco that they will take the baby monitor with them leaving Cora asleep in her crib, and they will take turns checking on her every half hour. As the birthday celebration winds down around 1:00 a.m. and Anne becomes more uncomfortable with Cynthia’s flirtatious behavior towards Marco, the decision is made to return home. Walking up the steps they find the front door partly open, but Anne swears she remembers locking it on her last check on the baby. Anne runs to the nursery to find that baby Cora is gone!

The police are called and the emotional rollercoaster begins as Anne and Marco must reveal some painful truths about their not-so perfect family. Should the police focus on Anne, who is suffering from severe post-partum depression—could she have killed her baby girl? Could it be Marco who might have plotted a ransom scheme in order to get money from his wealthy in-laws to save his failing business? What do the neighbors, Cynthia and Graham, have to hide from the police? How well does Marco really know his in-laws and what are they capable of doing to get him out of Anne’s life?

This psychological thriller takes the reader through several twists and turns until the very end and makes you wonder what might be going on with the couple next door to you!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New to Kanopy in January

Begin the new year with new critically-acclaimed films including the Sundance Film Festival Winner, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, an enchanting and haunting tale that bends reality and imagination.

This January Kanopy is celebrating women film with their Directed by Women Collection, and tackling health notions and New Year's resolutions with the Health and Wellness Collection.

In February Kanopy will spotlight their Black History Month Collection, highlighting films on African American history and culture.

Visit the Kanopy website to see a complete list of new releases for January.

Read It before You See It

by Mark Skinner, East Ensley Branch Library

There is a wide array of book-turned-movie adaptions set to be released in 2018. Instead of frantically searching the internet for movie spoilers, you should stop by the library to get a head start on other movie goers. Here are five great books that will be in theaters in March, giving you plenty of time to finish the book before the movie is released.

Annihilation – In theaters February 23
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. After eleven unsuccessful expeditions to survey the area most of which ended in the death of every team member, the twelfth expedition is ready to go. The group is made up of an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, collect specimens, record all their observations, and, above all, avoid being contaminated. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers. They discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms beyond understanding, but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything. Annihilation is the first of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

Red Sparrow – In theaters March 2
Drafted against her will to serve the regime of Vladimir Putin as an intelligence seductress, Dominika Egorova engages in a charged effort of deception and tradecraft with first-tour CIA officer Nathaniel Nash before a forbidden attraction threatens their careers. Red Sparrow is the first of a trilogy by Jason Matthews.

A Wrinkle in Time – In theaters March 9
Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a "tesseract," which, if you didn't know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg's father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father? A Wrinkle in Time is a well-loved classic and 1963 Newbery Medal winner by Madeleine L'Engles.

Love, Simon – In theaters March 16
Love, Simon is based on Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met. It is an incredibly funny, poignant, twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance.

Ready Player One – In theaters March 30
In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. Ready Player One was the debut novel of Ernest Cline.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

The Little Paris Bookshop Nina George

The bouquinistes of Paris are antiquarian booksellers who operate in stalls along the quays of the Seine River. They sell pre-used books, posters, post cards, buttons and other “petits riens” (little, antique doodads).

In Nina George’s novel The Little Paris Bookshop, Monsieur Perdu (translates: Mister Lost) is known as the apothecary of books. He has a gift for seeing the spiritual or practical afflictions that his customers suffer and hands them healing books. He sells his books and works his wonders from his barge anchored in the river Seine, and has an apartment in Paris. With all that Mr. Perdu is nevertheless sad. He is still heartsick for the woman who left him long ago.

Reading the opening chapters one settles in for the hard slog of a sensitive, depressive character, who can’t manage feelings, or reach out for help. But, no, Monsieur Perdu rescues himself, and the reader as well, by literally casting off. He disembarks and steers his book-laden barge down the river, and, ultimately, into the wondrous canal system of France. He makes friends with people who live on the canals, or alongside them, trades books for food and gas, and, of course, for wine. Along the way he picks up companions for his journey without a destination and they philosophize under the stars. But that’s not the end. The Little Paris Bookshop is, after all, a love story. You must read it to continue the mystical and compelling journey (jusqu’ au bout) to the end.

If a vacation floating down the canals of France is a candidate for your bucket list, this is your book. Or,if you simply enjoy spontaneous aimless wandering in unfamiliar places, The Little Paris Bookshop will whet your appetite for your next adventure.

Bon voyage!

January is Poverty Awareness Month

by Selina Johnson, Wylam Branch Library

How did you begin the New Year? There are some who went out to celebrate with drinking champagne and eating a variety of delicious foods with family and friends. Others watched the ball drop in New York from their television in the comfort of home. Unfortunately, there were those who did not have such options. They awaited word as to if there would be a chance for them to get out of the cold and into a shelter for the night.

January is Poverty Awareness Month. It is a month-long initiative to increase awareness and call attention to the steady growth of poverty in the United States. So many people are victims of circumstances that have brought them to a world with little to no income and that triggers limited access to resources. Most have formed preconceived notions of the poor as being lazy, mentally ill, disheveled, drug addicted; however, a day in the shoes of someone living in the clutches of poverty would provide a better understanding of their world. There are millions of working poor who may not be homeless but fall at or below the poverty line and are a crisis away from being without a home and basic necessities.

All of us want a better quality of life but sometimes life simply gets in the way. Family break ups, loss of jobs, natural disasters, illnesses, and addiction are just a few of the circumstances that will render anyone to hopelessly spiraling into poverty. So, this month take some time out to get a better understanding of the plight of those who are confronted with poverty each day. Listed below are a few titles that you can check out at the Birmingham Public Library.

Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury
Poverty in America: Cause or Effect? by Joan Axelrod-Contrada
The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives by Sasha Abramsky
Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America by Ella Howard.
Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.: How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin

Monday, January 08, 2018

Book Review: Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London

by Richard Grooms, Fiction Department, Central Library

Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London
By Shawn Levy

For Americans (and Brits, for that matter) who may know Swinging London mostly from the Austin Powers movies, this book will come as both a corrective and a thrill. Author Shawn Levy fairly persuasively argues that not just the sixties (so what’s new?) but London in the sixties (well, maybe so) was the main impetus for all subsequent Western popular culture. Not NYC, not L.A., not Paris. Whether or not he’s right, there has long needed to be a book on this topic, and it’s amazing there wasn’t until this one, in 2002. And it’s by a Yank, no less. It’s generally pretty fab.

Generally accurate, but not always. Levy uses the description “nonthreatening young manhood-squeaky clean…smiley and skin deep” to describe not only the Dave Clark Five and Gerry and the Pacemakers (where he’s on firm ground) but the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Animals (where he makes a fool of himself). Even a moderately well-versed historian of sixties British rock could get that right. Making fine distinctions should be part and parcel of any pop history. It frequently isn’t, of course. But if you raise high the import of pop culture, you better know what you’re talking about. Levy usually does, but sloppiness like this does wound the account and make you suspect the whole book. I’m glad to say that howlers like that are few and far between.

Levy is generally good at showing how the London scene was the beginning of the global village. What happened there often quickly impacted other Western countries. So it’s a mystery as to why he slags the London anti-war movement, saying that since Britain wasn’t at war, they looked silly protesting it. But his own argument that London youth knew that the local could, and often did, impact the Western world was the idea behind those peace rallies. But this is his only misstep in the global village field.

Levy makes a mass of material hang together by focusing on a few talented key individuals, each in a different field, who ended up becoming very influential. Thus David Bailey, Mick Jagger, Brian Epstein, Vidal Sassoon, Mary Quant, Robert Fraser, and a couple others demonstrate how you could be the kind of person (Northern, working class, upper class, gay, Jewish, female, not well-educated ) the establishment had previously tended to keep out of certain careers (music, music management, fashion, fashion photography, film acting). In the sixties the youth of Britain were fed up with the old ways, they swelled to great size, they had enormous spending power and they wedged themselves in so that a lot of customs fell away. If you had a lot of talent, and made a lot of money, you could shove that wedge a lot more and faster and harder. Levy has done a lot of research. For instance, I’ve read dozens of books on the Beatles, but he still told me a good amount about their manager Brian Epstein I didn’t know. Same with Mick Jagger. I was surprised how much Levy had dug up on what you’d think was exhausted soil. It’s fun to read about how a culture loosens, up, goes from black and white to color, from preordained to spontaneous, from stuffy to kicky. Fill Your Slot and Shut Up turned into No, I’m Gonna Do Things My Way. All in a really short amount of time. Instead of being organized by their culture, youth started organizing it. Even the classes started to mix socially, and in Britain that really was shocking.

One thing connected to all this was what one Briton called the deregulation of morality. But many youth saw that the upper classes had been getting away with it all for centuries, and they wanted some of that freedom. So it may be more accurate to call it the democratization of freedom. It was fun and scary for several years, heady stuff, very heady indeed. But, of course, it couldn’t go on too very long. People took too many drugs, got burned out, lost their sense of boundless hope. A cultural revolution didn’t stop, but it did slow down a lot and morphed into something less threatening.

In America today, youth are similarly fed up with the old ways and have the numbers and money to potentially change things. So this book may be more relevant now than it was in the early aughts. But I’m not young and I certainly found it relevant and enjoyable and I liked traveling back and seeing Oh What a Time They Had. It’s a cautionary tale, but it’s also a celebration. Maybe they’ll get it more right this time. Maybe not. Until then, read and see just how exciting social explosion is.

From Page to Stage: Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott – A Readers' Theater Workshop for Children

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) and Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), would like to invite you to attend From Page to Stage: Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott – A Readers’ Theater Workshop for Children.

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 7 to 12, will learn how stories come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott production in January and February 2018.

Sixty years after the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa Parks is remembered as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” With deep intensity and uplifting songs of the struggle, this play tells her uniquely moving American story. Everyone makes a difference.

Workshop space is limited, so registration is required. Register online through the BPL events calendar or contact your participating library location to register a child for the workshop. Libraries and dates are as follows:

Avondale Regional Branch Library: Sunday, January 28, 2:30 p.m.
East Lake Library: Saturday, January 27, 2:30 p.m.
Five Points West Regional Branch Library: Sunday, January 28, 2:30 p.m.
Pratt City Library: Saturday, January 27, 2:30 p.m.
Southside Library: Saturday, February 3, 2:30 p.m.
Springville Road Regional Branch Library: Sunday, February 5, 2:30 p.m.
West End Library: Saturday, February 3, 2018, 2:30 p.m.

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