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A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis

12 Dec

Labor history is rarely covered in great detail in high schools, which is a shame because the story of how workers gained the right to unionize, an eight-hour day, and a minimum wage is as riveting as any other piece of American history. Many people think that these labor reforms were gifted to workers by the generosity of progressive presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, but in A History of America in Ten Strikes, Loomis shows that it was workers who won these gains themselves by striking against abusive employers and the government, often when the odds were not in their favor.

For most of our existence as a country, work for the average person was bleak and brutal. Loomis writes about how starvation wages, gruesome workplace accidents and deaths, and violent repression of pro-union organizers was common. Conditions were so abysmal in the cotton and textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts that the life expectancy of a worker in the city was just forty years old. Over 100 garment workers burned to death in the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City during a time when it was common for factory owners to lock their employees inside the workplace. Mining companies would pay their employees in a type of currency called “scrip” that could only be used at company stores that would greatly inflate their prices.

The only tool workers had to fight back against these inhumane conditions was to go on strike. At the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan in 1936 – 1937, workers locked themselves inside while police shot tear gas through windows and management tried to freeze them out by turning off the heat. Workers from various industries shut down business in Oakland in 1946 in a city-wide general strike. Air traffic controllers unsuccessfully tried to stop international air travel when they walked off the job under President Ronald Reagan. Labor heroes such as Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, and Lucy Parsons all make appearances in Loomis’s history, but it is the striking workers themselves who take center stage in his history.

Loomis writes in an easily digestible narrative style that is never dull. His retelling of America’s labor history is both inspiring by highlighting the courage of average working people, but also tragic by showing inability of many of these same workers to look past the racism and xenophobia that was so deeply ingrained. Loomis’s book is as much about race as it is about class and how racism in America’s history has contributed to the weaknesses of many working class movements. Anyone who has enjoyed Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States will definitely enjoy Loomis’s book.

You can borrow A History of America in Ten Strikes from Hoopla as an ebook.  A People’s History of the United States is available as abridged and unabridged audiobook on Hoopla and as an ebook from eBCCLS.

You can stream a variety of documentaries about this topic on Kanopy including Triangle Fire: A Deadly Factory Accident in New York (Part of the PBS Series: American Experience). Our long time readers may remember our previous posts about the Alice Hoffman novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things which involved the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

Written By:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

Bake Offs: Tasty Books and Prize Winning Recipes for You to Try at Home

28 Nov

My son and I love to bake together; the weekend I wrote this post we made cookies for a class party.  But one thing we love almost as much as baking itself is to watch baking competitions together on TV.  Here are a few suggestions that you might enjoy if you too love the sweet taste of victory.

Great British Baking Show

I was curious to first checkout the Great British Baking Show because I was a fan of one of the hosts, Sue Perkins from the funny historical foodie show Supersizers Go…  I found this show just as delightful with contestants who are sweetly kind to one another rather than being cut throat like many reality competitions. They compete in three rounds: the first, a signature bake puts their unique spin on a classic, the second round where they must recreate one of the judge’s tricky bakes with minimal instructions, and a final show stopper round where the baked good frequently almost look too beautiful to eat. Even when disaster occurs and a contestant has a dreaded “soggy bottom” on one of their tarts the judges always have at least a kind word or two for the bakers. You’ll be rooting for your favorite baker and wishing you could taste the delicious looking treats they prepare.  Besides two of the seasons, Hoopla also has available Master Classes with Judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood who show you how to make their special treats.

Plus you can get the behind the scenes scoop with The Story Of The Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh.  You can borrow seasons 1-5 on DVD and try out the recipes yourselves with The Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking and The Great British Bake Off: Perfect Cakes and Bakes to Make at Home by Linda Collister from BCCLS libraries.  Learn more about judge, Paul Hollywood, in his memoir/cookbook A Baker’s Life: From Childhood Bakes to Five-Star Excellence.

The Pillsbury Best of the Bake-Off Series


Image from Hoopla

The Great British Baking Show is titled The Great British Bake Off in the UK, but changed its name because of Pillsbury’s copyright on the phrase in the US .  The Bake Off sponsored by Pillsbury is one of the most legendary in this country.  You can borrow a variety of cook books from Hoopla divided into different dishes including one on desserts which covers yummy goodies from over 50 years of competition from 1957’s now classic French Silk Chocolate Pie to more modern winners.  The book also looks back at the history of the competition and how desserts have evolved.  Each recipe includes the contestant’s name, home town, and year they competed.  You can also borrow bake off books on casseroles and specifically on making my family’s favorites: cookies and bars.

The Bake-Off
by Beth Kendrick
bake off
The Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick use a national bake-off as the setting that brings together two very different estranged sisters. Their grandmother thinks a top-secret family pie recipe will not just have them winning the competition but also find common ground. Of course, neither one is a baker, and if you’ve ever tried to bake one you might be questioning the phrase “easy as pie.”

If you are a fan of foodie fiction you can also check out All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant where aspiring baker Kat’s best friend Lucas Brannen signs her up for TV baking competition called Cupcake Combat; it seems like Kat may achieve her dreams, but Lucas is afraid he might lose Kat to the big city.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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