Being Arab American

arab covers

Tomorrow at 11:00am, the MVCC Library is hosting the event The Arab Experience Through Graphic Novels. One of the novels being featured is Arab in America, which portrays the prejudices experienced by Arabs and Muslims in American society. If you want to explore this topic further you might want to check out some other items from our collection.

How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America looks into the lives of twenty-somethings living in the largest Arab-American community in the US, with everything from government surveillance to workplace discrimination being part of their lives.

Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America tells the story of one Muslim American family–“a story of the struggles of assimilation and acceptance in a climate of confusion and prejudice.”

From Veils to Thongs: An Arab Chick’s Survival Guide to Balancing One’s Ethnic Identity in America takes a lighthearted look at being Syrian-American and trying to straddle two very different cultures with two very different views on women.

Homeland Insecurity: the Arab American and Muslim American Experience after 9/11 is an ethnographic study of the post 9/11 Chicago area. Through more than a hundred interviews and five in-depth oral histories, we get a candid look into the lives and experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans. We learn of their experiences with government scrutiny and public mistrust, but also of their experiences of increased social and civic engagement.

In All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim we hear first-hand from Muslim American men from all walks of life. We hear about their lives and about what it means to be both Muslim and American.

In I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim 40 women under the age of 40, who are both Muslim and American, share their individual stories about womanhood as a Muslim and what their lives are like being Muslim in America.

In the DVD Arab American Comedy Tour: Featuring America’s Most Wanted Comedians!, three comedians, Maysoon Zayid, Ahmed Ahmed, and Dean Obeidallah find the humor in the stereotypes that are often experienced in this country and “at all major airports” when you are Arab American.

Ellis Island

old ellis

Immigration is one the topics that we’re focusing on as part of our One Book, One College discussion this year. No treatment of the history of immigration in this country would be complete without a look at Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through this station in New York Harbor.

Ellis video pics

Two DVDs from our collection will bring Ellis Island history to life for you. The first is Remembering Ellis Island. This takes us through the history of the immigration station to its becoming a national museum. We see what the immigrants experienced while on the island, waiting for their chance to start a new life in a new land.

Forgotten Ellis Island tells the story of the hospital on Ellis Island where tens of thousands of immigrants spent time inside its walls, hoping to be cured and therefore not deported. In the three decades of its existence, “where the germs of the world converged,” the hospital saw the birth of 350 babies and the death of ten times that many immigrants.

If you want to explore this topic even further, these books from our collection can tell you even more about the interesting history of the island. For further exploration, you can also visit the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation website. Here you will find extensive history, many photographs, oral histories, a searchable passenger database, and much more.


Mexican Chicago

Mexican Chicago Books

This coming Thursday, Sept. 17th, the MVCC Library and the Green Hills Public Library are partnering to present the program Mexican Chicago: A History in Pictures. The presentation will take place at 7pm at the Green Hills Public Library on 103rd St. in Palos Hills. Through photographs, storyteller Rita Jirasek will shares stories of the lives and experiences of Mexicans in Chicago.

If the presentation inspires you to enjoy more resources with this special focus, a few books from our collection are great ways to explore this topic further. The first is Barrio: Photographs from Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village. This is a collection of photographs and journal entries by photographer Paul D’Amato that capture life, both public and private, in these Mexican communities in Chicago.  You can also view more of this artist’s work at his website.

Another interesting book is Pots of Promise: Mexicans and Pottery at Hull-House, 1920-40. This is a photograph and essay collection that brings us the story of Mexican artisans in Chicago as well as the history of the Hull-House. From the forward, “If only these pots could talk…the pots speak volumes about Hull-House, its Mexican neighborhood, and transnational material culture.”

Bringing Aztlan to Mexican Chicago is another book that portrays the Mexican experience in Chicago. This is the autobiography of Jóse Gamaliel González, a Mexico born artist, who came to call Chicago home. Illustrations and recollections depict his community advocacy and struggle to bring arts programming to Chicago.

Also, don’t forget that next Tuesday the 15th, Jose Angel N., the author of this year’s One Book, One College selection Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant will be at the library to discuss his book and his life.

One Book, One College, Three New DVDs

The library has just added three new highly acclaimed DVDs that complement our One Book, One College selection this year. These films depict the lives of Latin Americans struggling to reach the United States in search of a better life for themselves and for their families.

Previously appearing at numerous film festivals and now appearing on our library shelves is The Other Side of Immigration. This films takes us into rural Mexican towns where half the population has left to work in the United States. Through interviews with the townspeople, we see why so many leave their homes to find work in the US, as well as what happens to the families and communities that are left behind.

Winner of Best Documentary at several film festivals, El Inmigrante/The Immigrant tells the true story of the life and death Eusebio De Haro, a Mexican immigrant who was shot and killed during one of his border crossing attempts. This film that has been described as graphic, disturbing, poignant, and gripping examines varied group perspectives including the De Haro family, residents of the community in Texas where Eusebio was shot, vigilante border militias, and other migrants trying to make the crossing.

Another film festival favorite, and winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, is De Nadie. Here we meet migrants from Central and South America and learn of their dangerous journey through Mexico as the determined travelers try to reach the United States. We see the risks they are taking with their money, their health, and their lives as they face intimidation from oftentimes corrupt Mexican authorities.

Official State Pie

Pumpkin pie is poised to join an illustrious list that includes things like popcorn, the painted turtle, square dancing and the Tully Monster. The Illinois House just overwhelmingly passed a measure to declare that pumpkin pie be the official state pie of Illinois. The Senate begins consideration of the measure today. This designation celebrates Illinois’ status as the top producer of processed pumpkin. Around 500 million pounds of pumpkin are harvested annually in the state. Ninety percent of the pumpkins in the US are grown within a 90 mile radius of Peoria, IL and the nearby town of Morton is home to Libby’s pumpkin processing plant, which cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin.

It might be time to start learning our pumpkin facts in anticipation of this event. An interesting book in our collection is Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. pumpkin

The University of Illinois Extension has a wealth of information on all things pumpkin including recipes, history, growing pumpkins, festivals and more. Here are just a few pumpkin facts to get us started.

Pumpkins originated in Central America.

Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.

Pumpkin flowers are edible.

Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.

In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

And…it’s almost time to start preparing to bake your own Illinois official state pumpkin pie. Planting season is late May.

Chicago in Film

Did you know that before there was Hollywood, Chicago was the place for movie making? Chicago has a long history as an important place in the film industry. Movie making began in Chicago in 1896, with two of the world’s first film studios headquartered in Chicago. William Selig’s Polyscope studio, at Irving Park Road and Western Avenue, was the world’s largest. Chicago’s innovative filmmakers developed some of the earliest movie cameras and projectors. The weekly serial was also born here.

Some of the original buildings remain. At Claremont and Byron you can spot this building’s doorway that still bears the Selig symbol.

A few miles away at St. Augustine College, you can find this former entrance to Essanay Film Manufacturing, the most important of Chicago’s silent film studios.


The major studios eventually left Chicago for sunnier climates, but today the area still enjoys a vibrant business as setting and location for many movie productions. It is not uncommon to be able to see scenes from your everyday life on the big screen. You can also borrow many of these movies from the MVCC Library for your smaller screen viewing. This list from our collection includes movies that are important to Chicagoland because they were either filmed in the Chicago area or are stories/histories about Chicago. Here are some highlights from our collection.






If you want to find out more about Chicago’s film industry there are a few really great resources you might want to consult. From the Chicago Historical Society, The Encyclopedia of Chicago covers the history of movie production and movie going in Chicago and highlights the importance Chicago has played over time. The Chicago Film Office oversees filming in Chicago. Their site includes links to casting call information, film festivals, a listing by year of movies that were filmed in the city, and a listing of what is filming right now around the city. For an extensive listing of movie (and television) people, including actors, writers, and directors from Chicagoland you can visit the IMDb website. Lastly, for a guide to 100 years of movies and locations (and quite a few anecdotes), as well the history of the industry in Chicago, check out the book Hollywood on Lake Michigan from our collection.

Library YouTube

Over the past few months, I have been highlighting some YouTube channels that make learning about all sorts of different topics easy and fun. I want to point out another YouTube channel that you may not have known about that is close to home. The MVCC Library has its own channel too. Here you can view recordings of events that have been hosted by the library. The topics include things like immunizations, art, autism, literature, music, cultures, comics, and even zombies. If you missed an event or are just looking for an interesting discussion, come visit the library on YouTube.

Irish Film

The Chicago Irish Film Festival begins this weekend and runs through March 7th. This marks the 16th year of presenting the works of Irish filmmakers to the Chicagoland community. Since the festival’s inception, over 500 feature films, documentaries, and short films have been shown representing the very best in works by talented and award-winning Irish filmmakers. This year’s festival features 3 feature films and 34 short films that will be screened at one of the festival’s two venues. For a list and descriptions of this year’s films, as well as venue information, visit the festival’s website.

If you are looking to get yourself into an Irish film mood, you could enjoy some of these films in our collection covering Irish history and culture and stories featuring and taking place in Ireland.

The Pullman Monument

President Obama will be in town next week to designate Chicago’s Pullman District as a national monument, cementing the district’s importance in not just Chicago or even Illinois history, but in United States history. Pullman dates back to the 1880s and is where the Pullman Palace sleeper car was produced. Pullman was the country’s first factory town and the site of the nation’s first industry-wide strike, the Pullman Strike of 1894. The district was also home to the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters which was the nation’s first African-American labor union and played an important role in America’s civil rights movement.

The boundaries of the district are 103rd Street on the north, 115th Street on the south, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west and the Norfolk & Western rail line on the east, encompassing the North and South Pullman neighborhoods. This will include the Administration Building (also known as the Clocktower Building), the old factory, Hotel Florence, Greenstone Church, the market square, and hundreds of row houses. National Park Service rangers will be on site for interpretive services for tourists to the monument.

To learn more about the district and the large role it has played in local and national history, you might want to check out some items from our collection on Pullman.

The Nocebo Effect

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Great Britain, England, and the United Kingdom? Me too. As it turns out, over 6.5 million people have found the answer to that question on the YouTube channel CGP Grey. Short videos give explanations to things that people often wonder about in areas such as geography, politics, economics and more. Some popular videos on the channel include things like “Copyright: Forever Less One Day,” “The Trouble with the Electoral College,” “What is Reddit?” and “Is Pluto a Planet?” Videos have been featured on Mashable and CBS and several videos have gone viral including “How to Become Pope” and “Death to Pennies.” The following video gives an entertaining explanation of the Nocebo Effect.