Tag Archives: new york city

Magical Histories of New York: Witches of New York and The Age of Witches

15 Jul

Sometimes when I’m at my desk in our library building with its tin ceilings and ornate woodwork, I wonder what it would have been like when the building first opened in 1897 or even earlier in 1890 when the library was first created. Back at the turn of the century when Ami McKay’s Witches of New York and Louisa Morgan’s The Age of Witches were set, Hoboken was just taking shape evolving from a pleasure resort for the wealthy to a popular shipping port and a place of invention by the newly created Steven’s Institute.  I enjoyed both the magical fantasy aspects as well as the insight these books give into history. 

The Witches of New York
by Ami McKay
The Witches of New York is set during 1880 and focuses on 17-year-old Beatrice who newly an adult, leaves her Aunt’s home near Sleepy Hollow to answer an ad for a shop girl in New York City which includes the mysterious phrase “Those averse to magic need not apply.”  There she meets Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, two witches, who help Beatrice find her own powers and inner strength.  Here witchcraft is used as a metaphor for the power of women and the way in which that power was often suppressed and maligned in history.  I found the characters very enjoyable and there were enough hinted at possibilities for future storylines I have the impression it is likely not the last we will be seeing of these characters.  The three women’s story continue in the novella, Half Spent was the Night.  Adelaide also was featured in an earlier novel by McKay, The Virgin Cure

The Age of Witches
by Louisa Morgan

Set in 1890’s New York and England, The Age of Witches also looks at a group of three woman and the magic they possess, although in this case they are not all working in harmony.  Annis Allington is a young woman who wants nothing more to ride her horse and have the freedom not often given to woman of her age; her social climbing stepmother, Frances, however, sees a good marriage for Annis lifting them from their noveau riche social circle and into the highest levels of society.  Frances had previously used her magic to snag Annis’s father so that she could be lifted out of poverty.  Added in to this mix is Annis’s Aunt Harriet who wishes to keep Frances from manipulating Annis and awaken the young woman’s own power. The characters are strongly written and even when Francis falls into the evil stepmother trope there are still sympathetic aspects to her as a woman looking to rise above the limited circumstances society allowed her at the time.

Want more fantasy stories about witches?  You can read some more of my witchy picks here including Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches.

Check out The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and join us for a Zoom book discussion (online or you can call in with your phone) on July 20 at 6 PM. You can email hplwriters@ gmail.com to receive a Zoom invite.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

A Round-Up of Icons: New York City

1 Oct

A few weekends ago I was sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, eating a Bea Arthur cone from Big Gay Ice Cream and people-watching. I observed an elderly woman sitting on the bench next to mine, who was likely a local. I wanted to ask her how long she’s lived in the Alphabet City/East Village neighborhood, how much has the area changed over the years, has she tried a cone from Big Gay Ice Cream, but I didn’t want to disturb her. One of NYC’s draws, in my opinion, is that it’s so huge and full of people that it’s easy to blend in if one wishes. This post will cover two films and a book about different New Yorkers that stand out, want to stand out, or prefer to blend in.

Joan Rivers A Piece of Work

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I always associate Joan Rivers with New York City. Not only because she was born and raised there, but because of this memorable scene with Miss Piggy in The Muppets Take Manhattan and the fact that she did stand-up gigs in local clubs in addition to The Fashion Police on E!. Joan Rivers was a remarkable, hilarious woman who created a path for women in comedy working today. She persevered through the boys club of stand-up comedy, and other personal crises such as losing her husband to suicide, to have a long-lasting career.

What impressed me after watching Joan’s documentary is how much work she took on. A calendar with blank entries was her worst nightmare. There are several scenes in the documentary that show Joan and her team booking shows and other events, such as a cruise, a stint on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, and a roast on Comedy Central. I admire her energy and hope to still be able to work as hard when I am in my 70s. (At the time the film was made, Joan was 75.) Joan also cataloged her jokes in card catalog (more about that in this article), which set my librarian heart aflutter.

Bill Cunningham New York

Image via RookieMag

Bill Cunningham is a fashion photographer for the New York Times. His “On the Street” column appears in the Sunday Styles section, with additional video content on the Times’s website. He can be spotted riding his bike on the streets of Manhattan while wearing a blue jacket and taking photos of off-duty models, socialites, regular people commuting to work, and stylish teens. Occasionally, there are pictures of well-groomed pups. I appreciate this mix of subjects. Any street fashion photographer/blogger working these days must tip their hat to Bill Cunningham.

The documentary follows Bill as he rides his bike (with some close calls with taxis that terrified me as a viewer) seeking ideal subjects for his photos. We see his process, which includes using a camera with actual film and visiting a shop to develop the pictures. (Those still exist?!!?) Bill opens up about his background, and how he came to fashion photography from a career as a milliner. Another interesting angle of the documentary was the battle between longtime tenants, including Bill, of the Carnegie Artists’ Studio and the owners that wanted them to leave. Bill’s life is that of an artist wholly devoted to his craft of fashion photography.

Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton.

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With Humans of New York Brandon Stanton has made a project of photographing and interviewing everyday New Yorkers and posting their photos and stories to Facebook and Tumblr, which led to the book. His work is similar to Bill Cunningham’s, but with less emphasis on fashion. Brandon brings truth to the saying that everyone has a story to tell. Have you ever wondered what that stranger you passed on the street was thinking, but were afraid to ask? Humans of New York indulges that curiosity. The book is full of beautiful photos, with captions typeset in a white sans serif font that does not detract from the images.

Stanton’s next project is a book called Little Humans, which will feature kids. That should be adorable, as the kids sometimes give the most profound (and cutest) interviews on HONY–see this example. Stanton is currently doing a world tour of sorts with the United Nations, basically taking the photo/interview structure outside of New York City to countries like Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Ukraine, India, and Mexico. The Humans project is definitely one that travels.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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