Friday, October 07, 2016

Birmingham Public Library to Host 2016 Eat Drink Read Write Festival October 1-7

What: 2016 Eat Drink Read Write Festival
When: Saturday, October 1–Friday, October 7, 2016
Where: Central Library
Details: Six-day schedule online at

If you’re the type of person who relishes eating adventurous foods, mark your calendar for October 1-7 when the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) hosts its 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival (EDRW).

This year’s EDRW festival is dedicated to the idea that taking a risk and seeking out adventurous foods can result in great culinary experiences, said Brandon C. Smith, coordinator of the event.

“Whether it’s trying a Thai restaurant located in a gas station, buying ribs that have been cooked in a 55-gallon steel drum smoker in a parking lot, or foraging for wild blackberries along an old fence line, some of the best meals I have ever had involved taking a little risk,” said Smith, manager of the Eastwood Branch Library.

Headlining the 2016 festival is Chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, California, who has built a national reputation as a vegan chef and food activist, Smith said.

Terry is a 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award-winning chef and author known for his activism to create a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. He is currently Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR’s radio program All Things Considered, and many other publications. Fast Company magazine named Chef Terry one of the “9 People Who are Changing the Future of Food” in its April 2016 issue.

Bryant’s fourth book, Afro Vegan, published by Ten Speed Press/Random House in April 2014, was named by as one of the best cookbooks for 2014. It was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work category. Read more about Bryant at his website,

“Chef Bryant Terry is probably the foremost vegan chef in the U.S. right now,” said Smith of BPL. “He is known as being a leader in the area of food advocacy and working to change the conversation on food in our country.”

Here is the schedule of events for the 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival

Saturday, October 1, 2016, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Central Library
An Evening with Chef Bryant Terry

In illustrating why he is known as a premier food-justice activist, Terry will present a dynamic program in which he will discuss the need for a healthy, just, and sustainable food system as well as his passion for good food. Expect to be entertained with stories of how jazz, reggae, and soul music have influenced Chef Terry’s cooking. His unconventional presentation style with hip-hop interludes will delight you. Several local restaurants will offer samples of adventurous dishes for attendees to enjoy. This event will require $20 paid admission. Tickets are available at

Monday, October 3, 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Central Library
Children’s Adventurous Food Art Reception

Delve into the minds of local children’s interpretations of adventurous food through this juried exhibit of artwork located on the First Floor Gallery at the Central Library. The artwork was done by young patrons of BPL. The Junior League of Birmingham’s Project Yummy Van will provide healthy snacks and educate the young attendees on healthy eating and skills useful in the kitchen. Free admission.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Library/Arrington Auditorium/4th floor
Fermented & Foraged Food Panel Discussion
Pete Halupka and Lindsay Whiteaker of Harvest Roots Farm, Forage, & Ferment, Cameron Strouss of Deep Roots Apotheké, and Chef Thyme Randle of the Underground Cooking Academy will discuss fermented and foraged foods in a panel discussion moderated by Birmingham Magazine’s managing editor, Carla Jean Whitley. Attendees will sample kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and curtido from Harvest Roots, tonics from Deep Roots Apotheké, and lacto-fermented pickled vegetables from the Underground Cooking Academy. Free admission.

Thursday. October 6, 2016, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Wine Loft, 2200 1st Ave. N.
Happy Hour with Literary Cocktails

The Birmingham Public Library’s Young Professionals board is presenting an evening of literary cocktails at the Wine Loft with complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Several of Birmingham’s top bartenders will compete in a contest in which they will create cocktails inspired by works of Latin American literature. Comedian Funny Maine will emcee this event that will take place in the heart of October’s Art Crawl festival. There is no admission for this event, but attendees must be 21 or older.

Friday, October 7, 2016, 6:30 p.m., Central Library
Bards & Brews Slam

The library’s popular Bards & Brews spoken word poetry and craft beer tasting event will close the festival. Poets will compete in a slam for cash prizes while attendees sample beer from craft breweries including SweetWater Brewing, Cahaba Brewing Co., and Band of Brothers, as well as light hors d'oeuvres from Jim ‘N Nick’s, Babalu Tapas & Tacos, and the Ranch House. Voice Porter, a performance artist and experienced poetry slam emcee, will host this fantastic evening at the Central Library, which is presented with assistance from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Free admission.

The 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival was made possible by BPL partners including the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals Board, Deep Roots Apotheké, Dining Out with Comedienne Joy, Coca-Cola Bottling United, Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q, Silvertron Café, Tutwiler Hampton Inn & Suites, Harvest Roots Farm, Forage & Ferment, Michael's Restaurant, Kalisha DigiMedia, Golden Flake, the Junior League of Birmingham, SweetWater Brewing, Cahaba Brewing, Band of Brothers Brewing, Cathead Vodka, Ranch House, Tropicaleo, Babalu Tapas & Tacos, Revolve Kitchen & Brew, Jersey Boys, Edolyn's Pies, Cowboy Chicken, Redeaux's Café at City Hall, and Not Just Catering.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals, LIFE Ministries Donating 15 Chef Terry Event Tickets to West End Youth

The Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals (BPLYP) and LIFE Ministries are donating 15 tickets to the October 1 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival kickoff event featuring Chef Bryant Terry to youth affiliated with the West End Community Gardens.

The BPLYP will be donating 10 tickets (valued at $200) and LIFE Ministries will donate five tickets (a value of $100) to youth who help grow vegetables and other food at the West End Community Garden. Tickets to An Evening with Chef Bryant Terry, taking place from 6:00-8:00 p.m. October 1 at the Central Library, are available at

Chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, California, has built a national reputation as a vegan chef and food activist. During Saturday’s event, he will share his story and discuss his passion for creating a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. A 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award-winning chef, Terry is Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

Bryant’s fourth book, Afro Vegan, published by Ten Speed Press/Random House in April 2014, was named by as one of the best cookbooks for 2014. Read more about Bryant at his website,

LIFE Ministries is led by Senior Pastor Christopher Stoutermire. Though his church is based in Shelby County, Stoutermire previously worked with youth in Birmingham through the Boy Scouts and other agencies. His wife serves on the board of the BPLYP, and he felt that supporting the West End Community Garden was a worthy cause.

“I believe in giving back, and felt this would be a great way for us to help youth in the inner-city,” Stoutermire said.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Movie Review: My Dinner with Andre

My Dinner With Andre (1981)
Directed by Louis Malle

This isn’t my regular movie blog article where I talk about the films I see over and over again. A Matter of Life And Death is fairly new to me (although I spent many years tracking it down) and I’ve only seen it once. My Dinner With Andre, however, reverts to type: I’ve seen it at least ten times. I’ve read the screenplay three times and would absolutely like to sink my teeth into the thousand pages or so uncut transcript that Wallace Shawn started with before he whittled it down to the Dinner script. I have a whole manila file of Dinner-related clippings at home. I’ll be seeing this movie again and again for the rest of my life. I gladly own my obsession. Like seemingly everything Andre Gregory is prominently associated with, Dinner divided the critics when it was released. On the rapturous/damning divide, I fit into the former when I first saw it, two years after it came out. Stunned, mesmerized, exultant—it’s safe to say that this movie made an impression on me almost no movie has ever made. Virtually the entire movie is two men talking, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, who play, respectively, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. And yet don’t play them. I took it for a sort-of documentary on that initial, exultant viewing. But it’s not as simple as that. You see, Shawn and Gregory play themselves. They play characters that share their names and resemble their real-life selves (Somewhat? Fairly? Largely?) but aren’t quite them. This creates dramatic distance, tension, blurring, guessing-games. All this might seem to confuse the dramatic impact but it actually heighten it. The entire movie works, and works very well indeed.

So the two men talk. For about 107 minutes. During pre-production, The Powers That Be insisted that there be flashbacks, no audience will stand for this, it’ll get monotonous, flashbacks break up the intensity, what—do you wanna wreck us? But Andre and Wally stuck to their guns, got Malle on board and it succeeds without flashbacks. The resulting intensity works for the movie, not against it. Because the two leads are so skilled at getting you to imagine the stories in your mind, the movie is far richer than it would be had flashbacks been inserted. It’s the oldest drama of all-storytelling. The conversation is so stimulating, so white-hot, you don’t notice the passing of time, and the movie seems to almost zip by. Andre’s para-theatrical and para-religious quests in the Sahara, the Polish forest, Findhorn, and Long Island are contrasted to Wally’s rooted life paying bills, ticking off his errands as he completes them, trying not to obsess about money. It’s a film about the benefits of risking the Don Quixote life as compared to admitting the Sancho Panza demands of practicality. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about the need to wake up and to find a more genuine way of living. Shocking at times, very funny at others, it reveals new facets, new angles, and new insights just when you think it can’t do that anymore, say on the ninth viewing. A conversation of this length has never, to my knowledge, been done in the movies before or since Dinner, and it probably shouldn’t be. I doubt anybody else could avoid the pitfalls Andre and Wally dodged.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Birmingham Public Library Recovering the Classics Contest Deadline is September 30

The deadline to enter the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Recovering the Classics contest Friday, September 30, 2016. BPL has partnered with Books-A-Million to host the contest, which allows Alabama artists of all ages to design a cover for a classic book.

Prizes include your cover design on a classic book created by Books-A-Million’s Espresso Book Machine, Books-A-Million gift cards, and Recovering the Classics posters. To enter the contest, visit The winners will be announced by October 15, 2016.

The Central Library has been hosting the main exhibit of Recovering the Classics posters on its first floor since September 1, 2016, and the exhibit concludes on September 30, 2016. Several other BPL branches will have smaller exhibits.

Recovering the Classics is a crowdsourced collection of original covers for classic books in the public domain created by illustrators, typographers, and designers of all stripes. Its partners include the Creative Action Network, Harvard Book Store, Plympton's DailyLit, the White House, the New York Public Library, and the Digital Public Library of America. The goal is to bring an exhibit of redesigned cover posters to each of the 50 states, and BPL is representing the state of Alabama.

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a saying to evaluate something on its contents rather than its outward appearance. However, many people often judge a book by its cover to determine if it is worth reading, and many of greatest classics still wear poorly designed or auto-generated covers that fail to capture what makes these books exciting and inspiring.

“Every classic book deserves a great cover, and we cannot wait to see the new cover designs created by Alabama residents,” Laura Gentry, librarian and chair of the Recovering the Classics committee. “Through our partnership with Books-A-Million, we have amazing prizes. Who wouldn’t want their cover design printed on a book?”

Twenty entries have been submitted as of Wednesday, September 28, Gentry said. The classic book cover contest was selected in August as one of the winners of the BPL Board of Trustees Innovative Cool awards. You can find out more about Recovering the Classics at

Know Your Rights Workshop Taking Place on September 29 at Springville Road Library

Do you know what your rights are if you were pulled over by the police? Are you aware that certain moves by drivers can make police officers fearful, thus putting your life and others in the car in danger?

The Birmingham Public Library is hosting a free workshop featuring legal experts who will answer questions on how to react and interact with law enforcement. The Know Your Rights workshop will take place on Thursday, September 29, 10:00 a.m., at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library. Jefferson County District Judge Shera Grant and Birmingham lawyer Tommy Spina will be the guest speakers. The workshop is free and open to the public.

The workshop is designed to spark a community conversation designed to provide answers on how to react and interact with law enforcement, said Lutheria Jackson, a library assistant who is coordinating the program.

Jackson said she came up with the idea for Know Your Rights in the wake of hearing of many incidents across the country in which people have been fatally shot after encountering police. A Birmingham school is bringing several teenagers to the program in an effort to educate young people, Jackson said.

Organizers are hoping the conversation will help build better relationships between public citizens and law enforcement. For more details on this workshop, call Jackson at the Springville Road Library at 2052-226-4082.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Money Matters – Family Money Skills Workshop Scheduled for October 5, 2016

It’s never too late to start building a better understanding of your personal finances and begin developing a plan for the future. To assist you in this endeavor, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is partnering with the staff of the Regions Institute for Financial Education at UAB to offer a series of Money Matters workshops at the Central Library on the first Wednesday of each month from July 2016 to May 2017. Please join us on the dates below to take part in discussions about a variety of money management issues and learn ways to achieve your economic goals.

When: First Wednesday of the month
Time: noon-1:00 p.m.
Place: Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Building/Richard Arrington Auditorium

10/5/2016 – Family Money Skills
11/2/2016 – What Every Woman Should Know About Money
12/7/2016 – Protecting Yourself Against Targeted Fraud
1/4/2017 – Dealing With Debt
2/1/2017 – Where to Invest Your College Money
3/1/2017 – Your Credit Report
4/5/2017 – Saving Through Tax Refunds
5/3/2017 – Five Keys to Investing Success

For more information about the workshop series and other financial literacy resources available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Birmingham Public Library Hosts Six-World Food Story Contest

You know the feeling you get after finishing a book? Sometimes hopeful, mostly empty. What if I told you that you can get that same feeling but only after six words? And this time, the stories are about food, so the empty feeling will be felt in your stomach and not your heart. The Birmingham Public Library is hosting a contest that will do just that.

Urban legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote a six-word
short story on a bet. The story has since been debunked, but
many have challenged themselves to write a six-word story as
effective as this one. 

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The iconic story supposedly written by Ernest Hemingway made the six-word story challenge more well-known across the country. Today, there are websites and even Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing the emotion-packed tales.

As part of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s annual Eat Drink Read Write festival, BPL is hosting a six-word story contest on the subject of food. Let out the story of your best (or worst) Thanksgiving dinner, your favorite local dish. Submissions will be judged on creativity and originality.

Here are the rules and eligibility:
  • You must be an Alabama resident.
  • You must submit a registration form, available at the following link:
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Submission must be in English and exactly six-words long.
  • Birmingham Public Library staff and immediate family members are ineligible.

There are various ways to enter (only one of the following is necessary):
  • Twitter – tag your post with #edrw6wordstory
  • Instagram – tag your post with #edrw6wordstory
  • Email – send your story to

Two winners, 1st and 2nd place, will receive a $25 gift card to Babalu Tacos and Tapas plus a copy of Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith. The deadline to submit is Saturday, October 1, at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced on Friday, October 7, 2016.

Southern History Book of the Month: The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton

The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton 
Hon. Jeremiah Clemens

With the smashing success of the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is once again front-page news with fans taking sides and discussing how and when the relationship became a rivalry that led to a deadly duel. However, this is no new phenomenon. In 1859 the Hon. Jeremiah Clemens, an Alabama senator, published a historical novel titled The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The very order of the names gives a clue right away about how he regards the two men. The novel is relentlessly pro-Burr and makes no apology for this viewpoint. Early on we have a scene where the young Burr is ill in a field hospital during the American Revolution. Upon hearing the news that Benedict Arnold is preparing an invasion, he intends to join the expedition to prevent it:
The commands, and then the entreaties of his uncle and guardian, were alike in vain. All the kindly arguments of friends and relations were answered in a spirit equally kind; but his determination was unshaken.
“You are not well enough to leave your room,” urged his physician.
“I will be to-morrow,” was the reply.
He did leave it. By a mere effort of will he shook of disease as a loose garment and, enfeebled and emaciated as he was, went forth to brave hardships and dangers from which the stoutest frame and the boldest heart might have shrunk without disgrace.
Nor does Clemens conceal his estimate of Hamilton’s character, after telling us he had tried to look at “[Hamilton’s] character in the light of reason alone”:
The more I studied it, the more I became convinced that the world never presented such a combination . . . of daring courage and vile malignity, of high aspirings and low hypocrisy. Shrewd, artful, and unscrupulous, there were no means he might not employ to accomplish his ends . . .
In short: nothing that might not apply to modern politics, though pistol duels among political rivals have fallen out of fashion. In fact, Clemens dispenses with the duel in a few brief paragraphs, but practically the last words of the novel are Burr’s conviction that Hamilton deserved to die:
Face to face in the presence of the God who must pronounce our several dooms, I shall say that he deserved the death he received at my hands; and never, for one moment, has a thought of repentance obtruded itself upon my soul!
The Rivals is an interesting historical artifact of a time when the duel between Burr and Hamilton was within living memory, not some dry page out of a history book. The event took place on July 11, 1804 and Clemens was born in 1814; in his boyhood the duel would have been a part of the immediate past and he admits in the foreword of The Rivals that he had entertained “strong prejudices” against Hamilton from the time he was young. At this time when Alexander Hamilton is enjoying a period of unprecedented glamour in the public eye, a pro-Burr document is a fascinating counterbalance.

Our copy of The Rivals is housed in Southern History’s Rare Book collection. Come and visit us if you would like to view it, or if you can’t come for a visit, there are numerous online sources available.

What are your thoughts on the Burr and Hamilton conflict?

For more information:
The Rivals online
Jeremiah Clemens at Encyclopedia of Alabama
Jeremiah Clemens at Find A Grave
Aaron Burr
Alexander Hamilton
The Duel Site
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (the book that inspired the musical)
Hamilton’s America (coming to PBS in October)

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Linn-Henley Research Library
Central Library

Smithfield Library, Springville Road Library Offering Afterschool Study Help for Birmingham Students

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s 19 locations are a haven for many students across the city who come in after school to wait on their parents. Two city libraries—Smithfield Branch Library and Springville Road Regional Branch Library—have begun new programs designed to help students boost their grades and study skills.

The Smithfield Library is offering free homework tutoring help for elementary- to high school-age students on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. The program, Power Hour: Making Minutes Count, is being offered through November 22 to students who register in advance at the Smithfield Library.

The afterschool tutoring service began last week, said Heather McWilliams, Smithfield Library branch manager. “This is more of a homework help session than a class. It's ongoing and it's every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30-4:30,” McWilliams said.

The Springville Road Library has also started a new afterschool program designed to help Birmingham area students improve their grades. The program, Study Skills and Listening Skills Classes, will meet again on Wednesday, September 28, at 4:30 p.m. “Get the school year started the right way with education consultant Ursula Bradley. She will speak to students about essential study skills and listening skills.” To sign up, call Springville Road Library at 205-226-4085.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Meet Paul Boncella, Map Conservator/Book Mender at the Birmingham Public Library   

Paul Boncella
If you have an antique book or historic map in need of mending in metro Birmingham, Paul Boncella of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is a guy you need to know.

Since October 2012, the former concert organist has been fixing old maps and books as map conservator and book mender in the Southern History Department in the Linn-Henley Research Building, Central Library. He occasionally does this work as a favor to patrons, but many of them are unaware of the fascinating jobs Boncella did in his previous career that allowed him to showcase his musical talents across the globe.

Prior to joining BPL, Boncella spent 13 years as a concert organist, including performances in the former West Germany, and as a church organist. He also published musicological studies in several publications, presenting his research at conferences in Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, and throughout the U.S. Boncella also served as an instructor of music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore while pursuing his graduate degree there, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey while pursuing his doctorate in musicology. He also taught music in Alabama community colleges for 12 years before joining BPL.

“My work as a musician and a musicologist prepared me for my current job,” said Boncella, who also says his hobby of genealogy also led him to join BPL.

Name: Paul Boncella.

Title: Map conservator and book mender in the Southern History Department, Linn-Henley Research Library.

Hometown: Central New York.

College: BM and MM in organ performance from Johns Hopkins University; MA, MPhil, and PhD in musicology from Rutgers University.

How long with BPL: Four years.

What you do: Prepare antique maps for digitization, storage, and study; repair and rebuild books in the Tutwiler Collection; provide genealogy reference assistance to patrons; develop and teach genealogy classes.

Favorite part of your job: Map conservation affords me the privilege of handling beautiful, valuable maps that date as far back as the 1500s, and it gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I have put them on the path to surviving for centuries to come.

Favorite book: Dune by Frank Herbert.

Favorite movie: Dune (David Lynch, 1984).

Favorite Television Show: Anything with Jacques Pepin in it.

Favorite quote Paul uses as a guide in life: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

How to reach Paul: Office: 205-226-3663; Southern History Department: 205-226-3665; or visit him at the Southern History Department.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Finding Answers in DNA for African Americans and Native American Genealogical Research

Anyone researching their family tree knows that DNA is the hottest trend in genealogy. Genetic genealogy can often break down brick walls or confirm suspicions that you found in your research. One of the most difficult things to do is African American and Native American genealogical research. DNA does provide clues, but there is no magic in genetic genealogy and no special tests for African American and Native American research. However, you can make choices that will make DNA testing an invaluable tool in your research.

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy

Our final Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop is Genetic Genealogy Strategies for African American and Native American Research. It will be held in the Arrington Auditorium on Saturday, October 1, 10:00-11:30 a.m. Workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department of the Birmingham Public Library at 205-226-3665 or