Reads for Hispanic Heritage Month

From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate and cherish Latinx culture, history, and, of course, literature! Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to spotlight the triumphs and recognize the countless Latinx Americans who have helped shape American society. Visit the Hispanic Heritage Month’s website for more information.

To begin your search, we recommend taking a look at our extensive Latino Literature digital collection, which features over 450 plays written in English and Spanish by hundreds of Mexican America, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and other Latinx authors working in the United States. Among the gems of the collection are nearly 800 works that have never been published before.

Check out these selections from our Latinx Reads curation on OverDrive:



Read at Home: September in OverDrive

OverDrive is a UC Berkeley Library service for borrowing ebooks and audiobooks. You can access books online, download them to a device, or read them on an ereader such as Kindle. OverDrive is available to current UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff. How it works: Simply log in with your CalNet ID, and you can start borrowing!

You can also download the Libby by OverDrive app to access OverDrive from your mobile device. For more information, visit the OverDrive help guide.

Check out some of September’s new arrivals here:



Summer reading: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Book cover for Reading Lolita in TehranReading Lolita in Tehran
Azar Nafisi

In her popular book, Azar Nafisi narrates how she established intimate bonds with a group of female students who gathered at her home in Tehran to read works that were forbidden, clandestinely photocopying Nabokov’s Lolita and other prohibited works to avoid arrest. Nafisi does not understate the unimaginable repressiveness of a society where a government official inspects the hair and hands of female students for anything that could be considered the slightest cosmetic aberration before allowing them entry into the university where they are enrolled.

What’s remarkable about this book is not only how she maintains enduring relationships with this group, but how, through them, she is able to convey the massive cultural and political changes within Iran. For instance, the eight-year Iran-Iraq war is brought into awareness when a missile destroys a house about a mile from the living room where they’re discussing an American novel. They feel the reverberations of the strike.

Amazingly, Nafisi is able to connect her students’ lives to the lives described in detail in the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James — works that, on the surface, may seem to be completely “foreign,” and therefore “not relevant,” to people living in a Middle Eastern country that is on the verge of an Islamic revolution. One of the most spirited classroom discussions occurs when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is put “on trial.” Some students denounce it as a glaring example of Western literature that advocates decadence; others argue that it is a sardonic critique of upper-class American society during the Gilded Age.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is not only about how human connections can endure through time, but how literature can transcend time by connecting to readers despite their cultural differences.

MIKE PALMER
Curriculum Planner
College Writing Programs

This book is part of the 2020 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: If Women Rose Rooted

Book cover for If Women Rose RootedIf Women Rose Rooted
Sharon Blackie

In this eco-feminist work, Sharon Blackie writes about the dreadful severance that has occurred between the Earth and people, especially women, and how we have become lost and estranged from the natural world. Since our Western culture is founded on philosophies of dominion over nature, that animals have no reason, and that matter is inert, she writes, “it follows that the natural world is no more than a backdrop for human activities, to be exploited. Wild places have become ‘resources.’” It’s obvious that if you don’t know a place, then you don’t feel responsible for it. This book is an electrifying call to reconnect with the Earth and remember that we belong here. She reminds us that we must guard it and make a path to an “eco-heroine’s journey,” through Earth’s forests and fields, moors (she especially writes about Ireland and Scotland) and caves, waters, islands, and mountains.

JEAN DICKINSON
Slavic & Eastern European Catalog Librarian
UCB Library

This book is part of the 2020 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Trial: Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture (1790–1920) Digital Archive

The Library has begun a trial to Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture (1790–1920) digital archive (Gale). The collection contains over 2 million pages of trial transcripts, police and forensic reports, detective novels, newspaper accounts, and true crime literature from the 19th century. The archive is composed of 22 collections from source libraries including the British Library, National Archives (US), American Antiquarian Society, Library of Congress, and Harvard University Law Library. The content is mostly in English, with some content in French, German, Danish, Finnish, and Hawaiian.

This collection contains materials that could be used to research the causes and effects of the rise in crime during the Industrial Revolution, the development of metropolitan police departments, and the public’s fascination with sensational accounts of crime in newspapers and fiction. It covers changing attitudes about punishment and reform that led to such practices as solitary confinement, prison work programs, and penal transportation, as well as “scientific” theories such as phrenology, which posited that character could be determined by physiognomy.

The interface allows you to view scans of the original items alongside plain-text transcripts, and the full text is searchable. All items have been OCRed (including hand-written items).

The trial will end on 09/20/2020. Please send any feedback to Stacy Reardon: sreardon at berkeley.


Summer reading: Papillon

Book cover for papillonPapillion
Henri Charrière

The true prison story of wrongly convicted Henri Charrière’s Papillon (the nickname given to him because of the butterfly tattoo on his chest) takes many turns up and down the penal colony of Cayenne in French Guiana and across South America.

Upon arrival, he befriends a convicted banker/counterfeiter, Louis Dega, and initially uses him to finance his escape. What starts out as a self-serving tactic of prison survival eventually turns into a deep friendship as they are repeatedly caught, and Henri refuses to name names to the prison authorities. This costs him many years of solitary confinement under the most inhumane conditions.

He is eventually taken to Devil’s Island, off the coast of French Guiana, where his old friend Louis also lives. The island’s fame for inescapability doesn’t frighten Henri as he plans his final escape.

One of the best reads concerning friendship, struggle, and man’s desire for freedom.

ALVARO LÓPEZ-PIEDRA
Library Assistant III/Receiving Specialist
(Spanish/Italian/French/Portuguese/Catalan Collections)
Ordering & Monographs Receiving Unit

This book is part of the 2020 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Modern Hebrew

The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

Modern Hebrew
From 1919 edition of Ve-hayah he-ʻakov le-mishor published in Berlin. Source: HathiTrust (University of Maryland, College Park).

ורבים מצאו שראוי לתמוך בה ואין פוצה פה כנגד המצוה הזאת. אפס לכלל מעשה לא באו, חס ושלום שאנשי בוצץ מתרפים מדבר מצוה להתעסק בה, אבל כלל זה מסור בידם כל שאפשר לעשותו מחר אפשר לדחותו גם למחרתיים ויש מחרתיים לאחר זמן. וכשבאו ואמרו לפרנס החודש קריינדל טשרני גוועת ברעב ענה ואמר באמת באמת קריינדל טשרני גוועת ברעב.

And many saw fit to support her and none objected to this mitzvah.  But they failed to act. Heaven forbid that the people of Buczacz would neglect performing a mitzvah, but this was their fixed rule: whatever can be done tomorrow can be put off to the day after tomorrow, and there is another tomorrow after that. And when they came and said to the month’s community head, “Kreindel Tcharny is dying of hunger,” he responded, “Really, really, Kreindel Tcharny is dying of hunger.”  (trans. Robert Alter)

The novella And the Crooked Shall be Straight, which appeared in 1912, a year before the 24-year-old Agnon left Palestine for what would prove a decade-long stay in Germany, established his reputation as a major new voice in Hebrew literature. In it, he perfected his signature style, a supple and resonant synthesis of early rabbinic Hebrew, the Hebrew of the medieval commentaries, and the language of Early Modern pious literature. The power of the story came across in translation as well: Walter Benjamin, destined to become one of the most original critics of his age, read it in the 1919 German version together with other stories and deemed Agnon a great writer.

The plot is one that had some currency among European writers—one thinks of Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, the story of an officer in Napoleon’s army presumed dead in battle who after some years returns home to find his wife married to another man, like the protagonist of Agnon’s novella. The abundant deployment of traditional Hebrew sources here is shrewdly ironic. The title itself, a quotation from Isaiah 40:4, is turned back on itself because in the story nothing tragically bent will be made straight. The citation of a well-known talmudic dictum, “A poor man is as good as dead,” acquires a new, macabre meaning. The original sense is that a poor man is so miserable and so ill-regarded that he might as well be dead. But Agnon’s Menashe Haim—his name means “life-forgetter”—becomes a living dead man. After he sells his mendicant’s rabbinic letter of recommendation, the buyer is found dead with the seller’s name on the letter; his grave is marked with a tombstone bearing Menashe Haim’s name; his wife, who had been childless, has a baby with her new husband; and Menashe Haim, discovering this, retreats to olam hatohu, a borderline realm between life and death, in the end living in a cemetery. All this is a naturalistic adaptation of Gothic fiction, to which Agnon was drawn, populated by wandering souls, revenants, and ghosts. Perhaps the one unironic allusion to a traditional text is to Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), recurring in the story. At one point, the narrator says, “As the rhapsode (hameilitz) Schiller has said, “A generation comes and a generation goes but hope endures forever.” Whether Schiller actually said this, a one-word substitution has been made in the quotation of Qohelet 1:4, which reads, “A generation comes and a generation goes but the world endures forever.” In Menashe Haim’s story, hope is a mockery. One may recall Kafka’s somber remark, “There is hope but not for us.”

Contribution by Robert Alter
 Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature,
Department of Near Eastern Studies

~~~~~~~~~~
Title: והיה העקוב למישור  [Ṿe-hayah he-ʻaḳov le-mishor] 

Title in English: And the Crooked Shall be Straight
Author: Agnon, Shmuel Yosef, 1887-1970; Illustrated by Joseph Budko.
Imprint: Berlin, Jüdischer Verlag, 1919.
Edition: n/a
Language: Modern Hebrew
Language Family: Afro-Asiatic, Northwest Semitic
Source: HathiTrust Digital Library (University of Maryland, College Park)
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011626839

Other online editions:

Select print editions at Berkeley:

Explore Modern Hebrew language and literature at UC Berkeley:

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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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Literary Research: How to Research from Home (and Be Awesome)

Literary Research Workshop

Literary Research: How to Research from Home (and Be Awesome)
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
2:10pm – 3:30pm

We love books! But how do you research authors, novels, literary periods, and more when you can’t come to the Library in person? Attend this online workshop with Stacy Reardon, the Librarian for literature, to learn how to research literary studies from home. Together, we’ll cover important online databses for the study of literature, ebooks you can read from home, citation management tools, and helpful research strategies. You’ll leave the workshop knowing the fundamentals of literary research to help you craft informed class assignments or just indulge your inner lit nerd!

This workshop is designed especially for UC Berkeley undergraduate literature students of all levels.

Register here to receive the Zoom link.


Read at Home: New in OverDrive

OverDrive is a UC Berkeley Library service for borrowing ebooks and audiobooks. You can access books online, download them to a device, or read them on an ereader such as Kindle. OverDrive is available to current UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff. How it works: Simply log in with your CalNet ID, and you can start borrowing!

You can also download the Libby by OverDrive app to access OverDrive from your mobile device. For more information, visit the OverDrive help guide.

Check out some of the new arrivals here:



Summer reading: The Travelers

Book cover for The TravelersThe Travelers
Regina Porter

This debut novel by an award-winning African American playwright is a multigenerational, multifamily, multiracial saga told in language that is lean and prickly, full of characters who keep doing and saying things you won’t see coming, as they connect and disconnect against the backdrop of America in the 20th and 21st centuries.

MICHELE RABKIN
Associate Director
Berkeley Connect

This book is part of the 2020 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!