Thursday, October 27, 2011

El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

The following is an excerpt from Carrasco, Davíd and Scott Sessions. "El Día de los Muertos 2011: Background." The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2011:

One of the most meaningful yearly celebrations in Mexico, in fact throughout Latin America, is El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), celebrated for nearly a week at the end of October and the beginning of November. This elaborate celebration, dedicated to the cult of the dead (also referred to as Todos Santos—All Saints' Day), combines pre-Columbian rituals and beliefs with Catholic practices and symbols. Although Day of the Dead rituals are complex and difficult to categorize, the central idea is that during this period of public and private (family) rituals, the living and dead family members and friends are joined together in an atmosphere of communion and spiritual regeneration.
Important elements of Day of the Dead festivities in Central Mexico were practiced by Aztecs and have become integrated into the Catholic traditions of Mexico and other parts of Latin America. This same pattern of images of the dead, altar, food offerings, incense, and communion is carried out today. It is important to note that the rituals, symbols, and elaborate decorations of home altars and cemeteries differ somewhat according to region. Some communities emphasize cemetery altars and decorations, whereas others emphasize the processions between home and cemetery. Still others make unusual efforts to decorate their home altars to dead ancestors in baroque, lavish ways. But all Day of the Dead celebrations focus on a spiritual covenant between the human community and supernatural entities of deceased family members, friends, or saints. What is outstanding in all cases is the belief that what happens during one's life here on this earth is dependent, in part, on treating the dead well. People believe that if the dead are not worshipped, nurtured, and remembered in the proper manner, their own economic security, family stability, and health will be in jeopardy. Therefore, careful and generous preparations are carried out.

Discover more on the history and traditions of El Dia de los Muertos—from its roots in both pre-Columbian and Christian rituals to contemporary forms of celebration in Latin America and the United States—by checking out the full Feature Story on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.

Additional Resources

Daily Life of the Aztecs, Second Edition
Davíd Carrasco and Scott Sessions
Greenwood, 2011

Examine the fascinating details of the daily lives of the ancient Aztecs through this innovative study of their social history, culture, and continuing influence, written from the perspective of the history of religions.

Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture
Cordelia Chávez Candelaria, Arturo J. Aldama and Peter J. García
Greenwood, 2004

This 2-volume set is the first to encapsulate the breadth of Latina/Latino popular culture and its impact on the wider American culture.

Dictionary Of Chicano Folklore
Rafaela G. Castro
ABC-CLIO, 2000

Dictionary of Chicano Folklore charts the rich religious, social, artistic, and cultural heritage of Mexican Americans, who continue to evolve the customs and rituals connected to their Spanish and indigenous roots and the Spanish language.

Monday, October 24, 2011

India Celebrates 2011 Gandhi Jayanti and Diwali

October marks the celebration of two of India's major national holidays: the birthday of Gandhi Jayanti and the festival of Diwali. This year, Diwali will be celebrated on Wednesday, October 26th. The following is an edited excerpt from India Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic, edited by Arnold P. Kaminsky and Roger Long:

The Republic of India celebrates three national holidays: Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15) and Gandhi Jayanti, celebrated every year on October 2. On this day Indians mark the birth of Mohandas Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948), considered the “father of the country” by most Indians. Celebrations include local and state festivities, prayer services, and other remembrances of Gandhi’s sacrifice for freedom from British rule in a unified India and his lifelong commitment to nonviolence.
Beyond the official secular holidays celebrated by Indians, there are several religious festivals and traditions that consume the attention of a large percentage of the population each year. Among the most colorful and boisterous is the Hindu festival known as Diwali (also known as Depawali, Dipavali, Dewali, Diwali, Divali, Dipotsavi, Dipapratipad). Diwali is the “festival of lights,” and in India is spread over five days in autumn and is scheduled according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. There are many different names for the days of Diwali in different regions of India (South & North India, East & West India) and in the different languages spoken in these regions (i.e. Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Bengali).

Although primarily a Hindu holiday, Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and its origins predate modern Hinduism. As such, activities are related to the diversity of meanings given to the festival by the various Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sects who celebrate the holiday. Most celebrations center on the use of light, with candles, oil lamps, and electric lights decorating houses during this time. Sweets and other edibles are prepared, and pujas (worship) to various gods and ancestors are carried out, but people pray especially to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, light, prosperity and wisdom, and also to Ganesha, the 'Remover of Obstacles' and the 'Lord of Beginnings'.
One loud aspect of Diwali is the widespread use of fireworks and “crackers.” These celebratory devices of black powder and paper turn normally quiet villages and cities into raucous places of celebration. One day of Diwali is also afforded the honor of being a public holiday, a day off for government officials, schools, and banks.

Arnold P. Kaminsky, PhD, is professor of history at California State University, Long Beach, CA, and former chair of the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies. He was the founding director of the Yadunandan Center for India Studies at CSULB. A specialist on modern India and South Asia, his published works include The India Office: 1880–1910 and a number of articles and book chapters on the administrative history of India. Kaminsky has received numerous grants and fellowships to advance his research and engage in curricular design of Asia in the schools. He recently worked with the National Knowledge Commission of India to establish teacher education and higher education leadership collaboration between CSULB and Indian universities.

Roger D. Long, PhD, is professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI. His research focuses on India during the 20th century, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s, with special reference to the nationalist movement. He has edited a number of volumes, including The Founding of Pakistan: An Annotated Bibliography; The Man on the Spot: Essays on British Empire History; Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays Presented to Stanley Wolpert; The Political Career of Muhammad Ali Jinnah; and 'Dear Mr. Jinnah': Selected Correspondence and Speeches of Liaquat Ali Khan, 1937–1947.

India Today
An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic
Edited by Arnold P. Kaminsky and Roger D. Long

Containing almost 250 entries written by scholars from around the world, this two-volume resource provides current, accurate, and useful information on the politics, economics, society, and cultures of India since 1947.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Qaddafi's Death Begins a New Chapter in Libyan History

On Thursday, October 20, 2011, Libyan citizens flooded the streets of Tripoli and other cities to celebrate the demise of strongman Muammar Qaddafi, who, along with his son and several other officials, was killed by revolutionary forces in his hometown of Sirte. Several hours after cell phone images and videos of a presumably deceased Qaddafi began to circulate, the new Libyan leadership confirmed the dictator's death. Amid the excitement, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussensenior announced that the international military force would pull out of Libya.

Qaddafi's death promises to be a real turning point in Libya's bloody civil war, which has raged since February between pro- and anti-Qaddafi factions. NATO, and specifically U.S., involvement in the conflict has proven particularly controversial. Debate over the motives, intensity, and duration of American involvement in the North African country has circulated since NATO operations began in mid-March. Although President Barack Obama assured the American public in an address to the nation on March 28 that the U.S. goal was to protect civilians and not to effect regime change, critics at home and abroad believe that the United States went far beyond these stated objectives. In late May, members of Congress from both political parties leveled criticism at Obama and his administration for continued U.S. involvement in NATO operations—without congressional approval and allegedly in violation of the War Powers Act.

It is clear that Qaddafi's death has ushered in a new era for modern Libya. Yet the details of this unfolding future—and, in particular, the international community's role in it—remain to be seen.

—Maxine Taylor, ABC-CLIO

Taylor, Maxine. "Muammar Qaddafi Killed: Overview." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.

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Occupy Everything: The Streets Are Alive with the Sound of Anarchism

The headlines from recent weeks can be paraphrased like something out of an anarchist’s dream: “Leaderless Movement Confronts Powers-That-Be.” The Occupy movement has spread across the U.S. and around the world in rapid fashion, and while it would be an overstatement to proclaim that it is an exercise in anarchism through-and-through, there is no doubt that the basic framework of decentralized solidarity strongly recalls previous episodes of anarchy breaking out.

Indeed, the spontaneous, emergent, and self-determined nature of the Occupy demonstrations falls within the ambit of anarchism—from the “people’s assemblies” model of governance to the general refusal to engage in the “politics of demand” that often characterizes social movements. The anarchist anthropologist David Graeber, one of the initial organizers of the catalyzing Occupy Wall Street effort, expressly analyzed the phenomenon in a Washington Post interview in terms that anarchists will find quite familiar:

“It’s pre-figurative, so to speak. You’re creating a vision of the sort of society you want to have in miniature. And it’s a way of juxtaposing yourself against these powerful, undemocratic forces you’re protesting. If you make demands, you’re saying, in a way, that you’re asking the people in power and the existing institutions to do something different. And one reason people have been hesitant to do that is they see these institutions as the problem.”
While this bears a resemblance to precursor mobilizations in which an anarchist ethos has helped set the tone for widespread actions and organizing tactics—as prominently seen in the anti-globalization movement, for instance—this is also something completely new and different. We would be hard-pressed to identify another example of a movement that has caught hold so broadly and quickly, without a central charismatic figure or even a concrete set of unified demands. Instead, this movement taps into a deep well of accumulated resentment while at the same time retaining a celebratory feel, yielding a combined effect of “love and rage” that mirrors contemporary anarchist praxis.

The panoply of slogans in the movement tells the story. “The Beginning Is Near.” “Lost My Job But Found an Occupation.” “Yes We Camp.” “Don’t Feed the Greed.” “I Can’t Afford My Own Politician So I Made This Sign.” “Tear Down This Wall St.” “Born-Again American.” “The People: Too Big to Fail.” After seeing a photo of a young woman holding a sign that read “I Care About You,” author Naomi Klein visited Occupy Wall Street and declared it “the most important thing in the world” right now.

The power of the moment plainly excuses the resort to hyperbole. We have been waiting a long time for this resurgence of people power, here in the “belly of the beast.” While the world has been witnessing popular uprisings and throwing off tyrants, Americans have largely been insulated through our relative privilege, subsidized creature comforts, and a palpable cultural echo-chamber of self-aggrandizement.

No more. Occupy Wall Street has morphed into Occupy Main Street. It coheres as Occupy Together and decenters itself anew as Occupy Everything. Ultimately, it asks us to once again Occupy Earth—which sets a high bar toward changing the paradigm, since the consumptive one we’ve been living in has been steadily rendering the biosphere inhospitable if not outright uninhabitable

Interestingly, the Occupy movement sprang up in full force right after I finished writing Anarchism Today. Yet the seeds of the movement’s cosmology are eminently present throughout the text, and the strands of anarchist organizing from the past and present that are described in the book read like a how-to manual for the cutting-edge movements in the streets today. The spirit of anarchy is alive and well, and is apparently coming soon to an everything near you…

About the Author:

Randall Amster holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and a Ph.D. in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. He teaches Peace Studies and is the Graduate Chair of Humanities at Prescott College, and serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. He publishes widely in areas including anarchism, ecology, nonviolence, war and peace, social movements, homelessness, immigration, and sustainable communities. Dr. Amster is a member of the editorial advisory boards for the Contemporary Justice Review and the Journal of Sustainability Education. In addition, he is a regular columnist for the Daily Courier and a frequent contributor to numerous online publications, and is also the founder and editor of the news and commentary website, New Clear Vision. His forthcoming book Anarchism Today will be published by Praeger/ABC-CLIO in March 2012.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaching Grammar and Persuasive Writing

Someone quite wise once said that all writing is persuasive. So perhaps this blog entry is, too.

When I stepped out to write a book on persuasion I thought to myself, “What can I possibly add to the canon?” I mean the Greeks and Romans defined it, and philosophers and rhetoricians have been honing it ever since. Yet because I work with teachers who teach writing, I set out to make my humble contribution to the genre. And I think I accomplished that. Four by Four: Practical Methods for Writing Persuasively (Libraries Unlimited, Forthcoming) offers a distinctly hands-on way built upon four patterns to teach kids how to organize a persuasive paper.

Four by Four follows my Brushing Up on Grammar, (Libraries Unlimited, 2010) co-authored with Edward E. Wilson. Research tells us that grammar—to take—needs to be taught within the writing process. Unfortunately, teaching grammar in that way demands teachers who really know their grammar. If not, grammar taught in isolation gets drilled and therefore killed for most kids. BUG, as I affectionately call the book, helps teachers do what the title says—brush up. In that way perhaps they can add a dash of life to a subject most students dread.

Check out these great books that will help you teach your students to write both persuasively and well. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) honors October 20 as The National Day on Writing

 Joyce Armstrong Carroll, Ed.D., H.L.D., Co-director Abydos Learning International


Four by Four

Practical Methods for Writing Persuasively
By Joyce Armstrong Carroll, EdD, HLD, and Edward E. Wilson

Geared toward English and social studies teachers as well as school librarians, this book provides a clear and concise way to approach the teaching of persuasive writing—and to develop the skills students need to excel on high stakes tests as well.

An Acts of Teaching Approach 
By Joyce Armstrong Carroll, EdD, HLD, and Edward E. Wilson

Teachers will use this book as a quick but intensive way to brush up on their grammar skills and a guide to hands-on ways to teach grammar concepts. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf receives 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Prize committee today announced that Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her leading role in the "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work." Sirleaf's dramatic rise to become the first democratically elected woman to lead an African nation vividly highlights the important role women play in achieving peace, as recounted below by Dr. Melinda Adams of James Madison University:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made the case that her experience as a woman prepared her for the presidency. Throughout the campaign, Sirleaf called attention to the fact that she was a mother and a grandmother. Speaking to The Perspective, a U.S.-based news magazine published by the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF), Sirleaf stated, for example: “I believe that there are certain attributes in a woman that give her some advantages over a man. Women are usually more honest, more sensitive to issues and bring a stronger sense of commitment and dedication to what they do. Maybe because they were mothers, and being a mother you have that special attention for the family, for the young, for children.” In the documentary, Iron Ladies of Liberia, Sirleaf notes that Liberians often respond favorably to her “Old Ma” political style, in which she approached constituents as a mother who listened to them. Sirleaf’s Ma Ellen campaign implicitly argued that as a woman—and a mother—she would bring feminine leadership qualities, such as warmth and compassion, to the presidency. After years of corruption, mismanagement, and violence associated with Liberia’s previous male leaders, Sirleaf’s commitment to create a government that was more honest, open, and responsive to constituents resonated with Liberians…

Support from Liberian women, which crossed ethnic and class lines, seemed to play an important role in her victory. The Ministry of Gender and Development undertook a voter registration drive that increased the percentage of registered voters who were women from under 30 percent to over 50 percent in less than a month. Literate females boasted the highest turnout figures (77.1% in October and 69.9% in November) of any groups in Liberia. A number of women’s organizations, including the Liberian Women Initiative (LWI), endorsed Sirleaf...In her inaugural address, Sirleaf acknowledged the important role that women played in her election, stating: “During the period of our elections, Liberian women were galvanized—and demonstrated unmatched passion, enthusiasm, and support for my candidacy. They stood with me; they defended me; they worked with me; they prayed for me.”

By Dr. Melinda Adams, from Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office


Learn more about the inspiring work of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and thousands of Liberian women in ending decades of Civil War in West Africa and rebuilding their country with:

Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: 
A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office
Edited By Rainbow Murray

This examination of the role of gender stereotyping in media coverage of executive elections uses nine case studies from around the world to provide a unique comparative perspective.

Women in Developing Countries: 
A Reference Handbook
By Karen L. Kinnear

This book provides a much-needed survey of the discrimination and violence against women in developing countries, and identifies the literature and resources available about this topic.
Peace Movements Worldwide
Edited By Marc Pilisuk and Michael N. Nagler

This three-volume anthology is a comprehensive overview of how the human yearning for peace has played out, and is playing out, on this planet.
Women in Power: World Leaders since 1960
By Gunhild Hoogensen, Bruce O. Solheim

Profiles 22 women who have held the top positions of political leadership around the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson: A Hero is Born

During the American Civil War 150 years ago, on October 7, 1861, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was promoted to major general in the Confederate Army. Jackson had earned his nickname a few months earlier during the First Battle of Bull Run when he played a pivotal role in the Confederate victory. During the height of the battle, Brigadier General Barnard Bee cried out, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall!", and a legend was born. In this excerpt from Ethan S. Rafuse's Stonewall Jackson: A Biography, Jackson is preparing his troops for the upcoming battle.

Jackson had his men up early on Sunday, July 21, but not as early as McDowell had his. At around 6:00 A.M., the sound of artillery and small arms fire could be heard upstream from Jackson’s position. A little over three hours later Jackson received a message reporting that the Federals had crossed Bull Run a few miles above the Stone Bridge that carried the Warrenton Turnpike over the creek and marked the Confederate left—and his command was needed to help deal with the threat. Jackson responded with alacrity and quickly moved his command to the vicinity of the Stone Bridge but, after listening awhile to the sound of an intense fight to the west, ordered his command to move in that direction. At around noon, Jackson reached the eastern border of a large open plateau on which the home of Judith Henry sat.

Upon reaching Henry Hill, Jackson and his men were greeted with the sight of hundreds of bloodied and exhausted Confederate troops. Included among them was artillery Capt. John Imboden. From Imboden and other sources, Jackson learned that the brigades of Col. Nathan Evans from Beauregard’s army and Brig. Gen. Bernard Bee’s and Col. Francis Bartow’s from Johnston’s army had been overwhelmed after a tough fight on Matthews Hill with a massive Union force pushing south from a crossing of Bull Run located near Sudley Church. Imboden also reported that he had used his three guns to support their fight and cover their withdrawal but had been compelled to pull back. “I’ll support your battery,” Jackson replied, “Unlimber here.” Imboden informed Jackson that he had nearly exhausted his ammunition in the course of the earlier engagement and intended to continue moving to the rear in search of ammunition to replenish his caissons, but Jackson persuaded him not to just yet.

Jackson then began methodically posting his five regiments in a tree-line in support of Imboden’s position and, to bolster the position, brought up the four guns of the Rockbridge Artillery and two guns from a Richmond battery. Meanwhile, the forces that had been so roughly handled on Matthews Hill began to rally in the area behind the right of Jackson’s line. One of their commanders, Bee, rode over to Jackson and excitedly reported, “General, they are driving us!” “Sir,” Jackson sternly replied after quickly looking over the field, “we will give them the bayonet.”


Ethan S. Rafuse is professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the author of several books about the Civil War, including Stonewall Jackson: A Biography; A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle of Manassas; McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union; and Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863–1865.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Information Literacy Awareness

October is National Information Literacy Awareness Month.

Click here to find all about events and activities to support information literacy.

ABC-CLIO is a major publisher of materials to support information literacy. Through two of our imprints, Libraries Unlimited and Linworth, we publish materials for educators, students, and library professionals to enhance the understanding of and instruction in information literacy skills. Wonderful new and forthcoming books like:

Information Literacy and Information Skills Instruction: Applying Research to Practice in the 21st Century School Library, Third Edition 
By Nancy Pickering Thomas, Sherry R. Crow and Lori L. Franklin 
Pub date: 6-13-2011 
Imprint: Libraries Unlimited

Concise Guide to Information Literacy (forthcoming)
By: Scott Lanning Phil Roche 
Pub date: 3-30-2012 
Imprint: Libraries Unlimited

The Big6 Workshop Handbook: Implementation and Impact, Fourth Edition 
By: Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz 
Pub date: 3-25-2011 
Imprint: Linworth

What are you doing to build information literacy in your school and library? We are here to help you. Check us out!

Sign up for our Inquiry and Information Literacy e-newsletter. Click here.

Brought to you by Sharon Coatney, editor of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (Libraries Unlimited, 2010)