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Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I read this book with fascination. That’s what’s so great about the autobiography - you can step into the life of someone who’s entirely different from you, and step back out, unscathed.

Knapp was an outwardly successful woman. A journalist with a university education, and an upper-middle class background, she nevertheless became a “raging drunk”. What I loved most about this book is that it opened my eyes to the reality of alcoholism. It is not a disease that strikes only the poor, weak, or immoral. It’s a disease that can ruin the life of just about anyone, and for vastly different reasons.

I’m the kind of person who can stop drinking when I choose. Knapp couldn’t. She just couldn’t – until she had no other choice but to quit, and enter rehab. Drinking chronicles Knapp’s life, from the days when she first started drinking, through her university years and beyond, and finally through rehab and towards sobriety.

With insight and honesty, Knapp shares her observations about how childhood, family life, emotions, and self-perception can lead one to take refuge in alcohol.

After reading this book, I’m much more aware of the reasons why it’s nearly impossible for so many people to “just stop” drinking.

Visit your local library today! Whether you’re looking for autobiographies or any other genre, we’re happy to assist you and to make suggestions. We also have a wide variety of materials about alcohol and alcohol abuse. If you need more assistance, information desk staff can give you contact information for local AA chapters.

International Women's Day Success!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I was thrilled to attend Calgary Public Library’s celebration of the 100th International Women’s Day, yesterday. Throngs of women (and a few men!) filled Central Library’s John Dutton theatre for a complimentary lunch and a lively discussion with four notable, entrepreneurial panelists.

If you weren’t able to attend our festivities, then check out our panelists’ websites:

Donna Kennedy-Glans, founder of Integrity Bridges Inc.

Nina Rahal-Kharey, designer for House of Nonie

Lesley Scorgie, author of Rich by Thirty

Lynn Donaldson, founder of Lynn Donaldson & Associates Design and Contracting

As I listened (and live “tweeted”!), I was particularly inspired by Leslie Scorgie’s observations about tenacity. Now a well known author, Scorgie noted that prior to becoming published, she had been turned down by publishers 39 times. The 40th time was her breakthrough, and she hasn’t looked back since! What a great reminder that the things we strive for may not always come easily, but are certainly worth the effort.

On the evening of International Women’s Day, I taught an ESL class at a local school. I asked my students to do the following short speaking exercise: for one minute, tell me about an important woman in your life.

My students (of whom the vast majority are men) talked about their mothers, who make enormous sacrifices for them; their sisters who offer moral and financial support; their daughters, who inspire them to be good parents and hard workers. One of the last students to speak talked about his teacher. I felt tears in my eyes, when I realized he was talking about me!

Women are powerful. We are grandmothers, mothers, sisters and daughters. But we’re more than just our familial roles. We are teachers, authors, advocates, and successful entrepreneurs. We’re agents of change in our communities and beyond!

International Women's Day is March 8th. Find out more about it by visiting your local library!

IWD 100!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

This year, it’s the one hundredth annual International Women’s Day! Come and celebrate at the Calgary Public Library!

Our 2011 speakers’ panel includes Lynn Donaldson, interior designer; Donna Kennedy-Glans, founder of Integrity Bridges Inc.; Nina Rahal-Kharey, head designer of House of Nonie, and Lesley Scorgie, author of Rich by Thirty.

As a special treat, all of our registrants will receive a free lunch!

You don’t have to be a woman to attend. You just have to know, respect, or love one.

While you’re here, why not check out our resources? We’ve got print and electronic materials about women’s health and sexuality, the history of feminism, entrepreneurship for moms, and lots more! Come and get inspired!

We are women, hear us roar, in numbers too big to ignore!

Do You Believe in Fate?

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I’m starting to.

Over a year ago, I was asked to visit the Calgary Remand Centre, to promote library materials and services to the women who are incarcerated there. One of the women I met was Stephanie.

When Stephanie was released, I would see her downtown from time to time. Sometimes she’d be walking on 7th Avenue, and other times she’d be making a call at the payphones in the Central Library.

I also met her at the YWCA, where she was living and I was teaching an ESL class. One night she was strumming a guitar in the lobby, and we shared an impromptu rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman. I felt tears well up in my eyes when Stephanie sang the last line: “Is it over now / do you know how / to pick up the pieces and go home?”. I wondered what she envisioned, when she sang the word “home”. The experience moved me enough to write and deliver a speech for my Toastmasters club.

Today, I bumped into Stephanie in the lobby of the Central Library. I asked how she was doing, and she began to cry. She had been assaulted and was now living at the Centre of Hope; she was worried about the health of her grandson; she had only seven dollars to her name.

I invited her to come with me across the street, where I would buy her a bottle of juice and a cup of soup. Stephanie didn’t care for the soups of the day – won ton and corn chowder – and neither did I. We got salads, instead. She grabbed a heaping handful of salt packets and explained sheepishly, “I need these. I’m staying at the shelter”. I suggested that she grab some crackers, too, while she was at it.

Snippets of our conversation remain with me: her reference to residential school; her dissatisfaction with some of her treatment programs; her visits to an Aboriginal healer. What struck me most was her comment that she’ll “…be coming to the library more often these days”.

“Oh, really? Why is that?”

“Because I need a safe place, and I have nowhere else to go.”

I told her I thought she had a good idea, and reminded her that she was right – the library is a refuge from busyness, noise, bad weather, and the pressures of the world.

I also told her that initially, I wondered why I had been sent to the Remand Centre, but that I now believe it’s because I was meant to meet her. Was that crazy? No, she assured me. She felt the same way.

There are days when I encounter rude customers (but what industry is immune to that?) and days when I wish that some of the folks who stare at their Facebook pages would make more use of our huge range of books and extensive databases. But on a day like today, I don’t wish for any changes. I’m content simply to work for an organization that is a refuge for so many people, for so many reasons.

I’m proud to work for the Calgary Public Library.

Stephanie: this post is for you! Come and visit me, when you have the chance.

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Roseanne: THIS is What a Feminist Looks Like!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I’ve been watching Roseanne DVDs lately. I enjoyed the show as a young adult, but now I appreciate it for different reasons. Actually, I’ve come to realize that Roseanne is a feminist, and the show is remarkably progressive – even by today’s standards.

Roseanne clearly rules her home and no one can challenge that. However, she’s not such a tyrant that she’s incapable of apologizing or realizing her mistakes. She’s a responsible(ish) mother, even when making fun of her children, and she’s a devoted wife, though she doesn’t fawn over her husband. Everyone in her family defers to her (when they’re not trying to keep secrets, of course!), but she makes important decisions in concert with her husband. She jests about marriage but maintains a strong partnership. Family is prioritized over working, but Roseanne insists that her daughters are educated before starting families of their own.

I really salute the producers of the show for including gay characters before most other sitcoms would have dared to. Roseanne’s boss (and later business partner), Leon, is a gay man. Roseanne’s girlfriend, Nancy, is a lesbian. However, Leon and Nancy are teased just as much as the straight characters in the show! No one is safe from Roseanne’s comic insights.

Is there another show today that represents middle class suburban life with as much rawness and humour as Roseanne? If there is, I have yet to watch it. Until then, I’ll stay with my mid-nineties re-runs, thank you very much.

Roseanne DVDs cost about $30 per season. But, if you’ve got a library card, then you’re chuckling for free! Borrow them today!

Unbearable Lightness, by Portia De Rossi

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

WOW – what a fantastic book! Portia De Rossi is a gay actress, married to well-known talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres. In Unbearable Lightness, De Rossi reflects on her past and shares insights into why she developed and eventually overcame both anorexia and bulimia.

This is a wonderful book; I read it in only a few days. De Rossi is insightful, sharp, funny, honest and unflinching about her past. What surprised me most was her skill as a prose writer. I may be judgemental, given that I don’t typically assume former models with long blonde hair are “the literary type”, but De Rossi certainly is. In articulate and poignant descriptions, she reveals how difficult it is to be an actress (let alone a gay actress) in a culture of beauty, thinness and body obsession.

Read this book if you struggle with anorexia or bulimia. Read it if you’ve ever felt too fat or too thin. Read this book if you enjoy biographies. Read this book if you’re a fan of the TV program Arrested Development.

I have a new appreciation for De Rossi’s work, and I’m sure you will, too!

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