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Bliss Montage By Ling Ma | Review

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma “In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. A woman lives in a house with all her ex-boyfriends. A toxic friendship grows up around a drug that makes you invisible. An ancient ritual might heal you of anything—if you bury yourself alive.   These and other scenarios investigate the ways that the outlandish and the ordinary are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly alike.” -Macmillan  About the Author With eerily poignant observations and pop...
9780375760112

White Supremacy: King of America by Sophia Speranza

Thomas Paine Day (or Freethinkers Day) is on June 8 – a day to celebrate the life and influential works of Thomas Paine, who died on this day in 1809. Paine’s most famous and important works include: Common Sense, Age of Reason, and Rights of Man. Barbara’s Bookstore Recommends: Common Sense and Other Writings by Thomas Paine (ISBN 9780375760112) Beautiful Country, Born Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution by Ben Fountain (ISBN 9780062688750). White Supremacy: King of America by Sophia Speranza             When considering Common Sense and its relationship to American democracy today, it is clear that structurally we have grown but not necessarily in the...
Book Review

Booksellers Ban Books, Too: A Lesson in Humor

If we lived in a perfect world, books would not be banned, nor burned. Freedom of speech and the power of expression would be alive and well, and this little piece of humorous writing would be just a drop in the pond in my mind. On January 10, 2022, the McMinn County School Board in Tennessee voted to ban Art Spiegelman's graphic novel "Maus" due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity (Where were these people during the Playboy years, when it was acceptable for women to be scantily clad while wearing bunny ears?). The novel depicts...
Howl

Howl: Obscene Honesty and the Power of Being Blunt By Sophia Speranza

On January 10, 2022, Art Speigelman’s Maus was removed from an entire Tennessee school district’s curriculum due to parental complaints regarding its obscene content and foul language. The board’s vote for Maus’ removal has sparked controversy and started conversations across the country about obscenity and the power of vulnerable narratives. Barbara’s Bookstore employee Sophia Speranza shares and reflects upon her personal experience with this type of censorship (and its impact) below: Annie told me to take a shot of Jameson after each line of her favorite poem. It was the beginning of my senior year of high school, and Annie...

Barbara’s C2

The original Barbara's at 1434 Wells Street in Old Town was in an ancient three-story with two apartments above the store. When I came to Barbara's in the late 60s, we expanded to the second floor, built a steep and precarious staircase in the middle of the store to get to it, and used the new space for a little more book store and an office.  Our daughter Rebecca was born in 1975.  She lay in a crib in a side room of the upstairs office while her mother Jan met with publisher representatives and occasional authors to buy titles for...

May Day was Born in the Fight for Immigrants’ Rights: A History

May Day — International Labor Day — began in Chicago in the fight not only for the eight-hour day, but also for immigrants’ rights. On May 1, 1886, workers throughout the United States engaged in a massive strike to demand the eight-hour day. Chicago was the strike’s center. At that time, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world. Chicago’s factories were being filled not only by young people being driven off the farms of the U.S. Midwest, but also by workers from England, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Bohemia, Sweden and many other countries. Just days after that strike, on May...

April 4, 1968: Dr. King is Killed Defending Labor’s Rights

April 4 is one of the saddest days of the year. On that day in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. While many events are held each year to honor Dr. King’s memory, too often people forget – or have never learned -- why he was in Memphis that spring. Dr. King went to Memphis to help striking sanitation workers – and paid for his stand with his life. That makes April 4 an important anniversary not only in African American history (and in U.S. history in general), but in the history...

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the Origins of International Women’s Day

THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FACTORY FIRE AND THE FIGHT FOR WORKERS' RIGHTS (2020) | Julie Kathleen Gilbert | BUY BOOK LUCY FIGHTS THE FLAMES: A Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Survival Story (2019) | Julie Kathleen Gilbert | BUY BOOK There were no fire extinguishers. The ninth floor of the 10-story building had only two doors leading out. By the time the seamstresses there realized the building was on fire, one stairwell was already filling with smoke and flames. The other door had been locked. The single fire escape collapsed under the weight of the many desperate people trying to use it....

Give the Lady What She Wants

GIVE THE LADY WHAT SHE WANTS | Herman Kogan & Lloyd Wendt | BUY HERE ABOUT THE BOOK (New Release 2019) In the heart of downtown, there was a palace of commerce, a jewel of Chicago history. It was Marshall Field & Company. "Give the lady what she wants". "The customer is always right". These generous policies are Marshall Field's legacy to the world of retail. Here is the department store's history, a love story, told with fun and flair. It include a very personal new preface by Rick Kogan, longtime Chicago newpaperman, radio personality, and eldest son of Herman Kogan.   BLOG POST...

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

On the first of January we began a drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico, our home, to DesPlaines, Illinois. The purpose was to deliver a car to our daughter, Rebecca. With two kids now in school and son-in-law, David, Barbara’s Chief Operating Officer, dealing with all of our stores, they needed a second vehicle and we found a great cheap one being abandoned by an old (I mean old) friend. It was a surprise for our kids. On the way, Jan and I stopped in Dodge City, Kansas, visited the State capital in Topeka, and found our way to Springfield, Illinois. I...

John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded...

ISBN: 9780375726156 | BUY HERE David S. Reynolds' study of the heroic abolitionist John Brown is more than a biography of one man; it's an account of an entire era.  The author helps us understand the forces that shaped Brown and made him such a fierce opponent of slavery. It also conveys a vivid picture of life -- especially cultural life --in the United States before the Civil War, the decades when an intense debate raged over slavery. With great verve, Reynolds recounts how Brown and his compatriots planned and carried out their bold but ultimately doomed raid on the federal...

The Distant Rumblings of the Sexual Revolution

As the years went by, Barbara's became well known in Chicago and beyond. That led us down many interesting and, often, peculiar roads. One day in February 1971 I got a call from someone at Kingston Mines. Kingston was one of the small playhouses that had sprung up on the near north side of Chicago sometime in 1968. The 300 seat theater was housed in a converted trolley barn at 2356 North Lincoln. The front of the theater had a small cafe and I was asked if we could set up a display of books that the cafe could sell....

Grapefruits

Carmichael’s Bookstore opened on Bardstown Road in Louisville in 1978. In that pre-boomtown year, it was a desolate location. A former music record store, it took months before customers realized it wasn’t still selling LPs and 45s. Carol and Michael—Carmichael’s—moved home to Louisville from Chicago after working for Barbara’s Bookstores for many years. Carol Besse was a treasured Barbara’s manager. Her then boyfriend, Michael Boggs, kept our books. Carmichael’s has grown into Louisville’s best known and beloved independent bookstore, with three locations. It has been named Independent Bookseller of the Year by the American Booksellers Association, and I think of it...

Memories of My Family this Melancholy Covid-19 Holiday Season

“You’ve Officially Become Papa!” That’s what my young son Jared recently wrote after I sent him the same Whole Foods shopping trip photo five times. My dad was Poppa to his grandkids and great grandkids. He lived to maybe 94, or so, and died on December 5, 2005. I'm not sure how old he was. He was born in Chicago around 1911, but his birth certificate is not on file. The family lore is that it was destroyed in a fire—but there's no record of any such event since the great Chicago fire of 1871. You would think Poppa’s fire would...

Barbara’s 1968

Originally posted in 2017.   I bought Barbara's Bookstore from Barbara Siegel Markowitz - exactly fifty years ago. Or maybe it was 1967.My law partner, David Baylor, asked me to be his campaign manager that year. He was running as the anointed Democrat against incumbent RepublicanDonald Rumsfeld - yes, Rumsfeld - in the Illinois 13th congressional district. I did it and succeeded in maneuvering Dave to a 73% to 27% loss. 1968 was the year that Robert Kennedy was assassinated; the year of riots in Chicago, DC, Baltimore, Wilmington, Kansas City, Detroit and some 31 other American cities following the April 4th assassination of Martin Luther King....

The First Labor Day Parade

THE FIRST LABOR DAY PARADE New York, NY—The huge procession began with 400 members of Bricklayers Union No. 6, all dressed in white aprons. They were followed by a band and then the members of the Manufacturing Jewelers union. The jewelers marched four abreast, wearing derby hats and dark suits with buttonhole bouquets. They all carried canes resting on their shoulders (similar to the way infantry officers carry swords when on parade.) As the day went on, the parade included contingents from the Manufacturing Shoemakers Union No. 1 (wearing blue badges), and an especially well-received contingent from the Big 6 -...

A Bookstore in the Family

My daughter’s first word was ‘dada.’ Her second word was ‘book.’ Barbara’s Bookstore was her playground. As a toddler, among her favorite books were Three Little Kittens and Frog & Toad Are Friends. She started in Montessori at age two-and-a-half. By age three she could read by herself. She kept this new skill a secret from her parents, however. We did not know until we took her to an art exhibition on Navy Pier and she read the captions to us – Vase with Roses, City at Midnight. We were speechless. By three-and-a-half, she wanted to write books. Writing with a...

Electric Boots

Saw Rocketman on opening day May 31st. It was touching, but maybe because we are old and listened to Elton John from the beginning. Jan, pregnant with our daughter, Rebecca, and I were at Elton’s concert at Chicago Stadium in late 1974. In the movie, Elton describes this time as the worst of his addictions and despair.  Because we knew a roadie, we sat behind the stage and were backstage when it ended. While the audience was yelling for more, Elton ran past us and jumped into an idling limo. Still wearing his glitter costume and glasses, toweling his visible sweat,...