Archive for February, 2017

Book Reviews from Students

February 22nd, 2017

The following book reviews were written by student assistants in the Reference & Research Services Department here in the library. We hope they inspire you to pick up a good book!

nw1NW, reviewed by Brianna Cockett-Mamiya

Zadie Smith’s 2012 novel NW follows the lives of four different characters — Natalie, Leah, Felix, and Nathan — living in the northwest corner of London. NW is fascinating in a number of ways. For one, the novel plays with an experimental structure, being split up into four sections, each one taking on a different narrative form. Smith uses third person narrative, screen-play style dialogue, and one of my favorite section consists of 185 vignettes spanning across the life of one of the main characters, Natalie. The various forms throughout the novel may come off as scattered or a bit challenging, but I really enjoyed the unique structure. NW explores the themes of race, class, gender, and social mobility in a way that is really compelling. Although the characters all grew up in Caldwell, a council estate or housing project, they each stand on different steps of the social ladder. Each character is fleshed out so well that they come off as real people rather than likable characters. Not only does Zadie Smith write beautifully, NW shows that she is masterful at writing real people going through real social issues.

the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-waoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, reviewed by Ariana Varela

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz weaves multiple stories and cultures into this saga about immigration, identity, gender, and the idea of a “home.” The novel is told from the omnipresent narrator Yunior, a recurring character in Diaz’s works, who recounts the life of Oscar Wao, a nerdy Dominican-American who loves to read and write sci-fi novels. Wao’s family illustrates questions of identity and belonging in the context of inter-generational trauma and gender role modeling. The novel flashes back to his mother’s life in the Dominican Republic before immigrating to New Jersey, in where Diaz includes the history of the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship and U.S. involvement in the Dominican Republic, which helps ground the reader. This historical overview sets up the idea of the fukú or a curse placed on individuals in the DR due to the supernatural powers of corrupt dictators. This curse follows Wao’s family and is used to explain the family’s misfortune and continuous struggles. Both Oscar and his sister Lola are confronted with feeling like a stranger in the nation they grew up in, creating a constant search for home and origins. They are forced into navigating a split national identity. The multiple plots and complex characters make it hard to put this book down. This is a must read that will seize your imagination the way novels do, while also exposing the universal truths of the legacy of colonialism and the impact of immigration on family dynamics.

71yyrswjhlColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, reviewed by Brianna Cockett-Mamiya

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami was published in Japan in 2013 and the English translation was published in the U.S. in 2014. Through a third-person narrative, the novel follows thirty-six year old Tazaki who designs train stations in Tokyo. In high school, Tazaki had four best friends, and each had a color as part of their surnames (red, blue, white, and black), which they used as nicknames, leaving Tazaki the only “colorless” one. The group of friends stayed in touch after high school, but in Tazaki’s second year of college they suddenly cut ties with him without any explanation. Tazaki lacked a sense of belonging in the world and was truly colorless up until he starts dating Sara, who pushes him to confront his past. Following Sara’s advice, he seeks an explanation and closure by reuniting with each of his old friends, starting in his hometown of Nagoya and ending the journey in rural Finland, and what he finds is truly startling. Having read a few of Murakami’s works in the past, I can count this novel as one of my personal favorites. Magical realism is usually a style which is heavily used by Murakami, but in this work it is only hinted at. This slight touch of magical realism paired with the darkness which pervades the novel adds excitement and mystery to an already perplexing plot. The perspective of the novel, entirely focused on the protagonist, allowed me to feel deeply what he felt, and to empathize with his quest to find closure and a sense of belonging. Something I’ve noticed about Murakami’s work in the past is that his writing is a bit slow and takes time to get into, but, especially regarding this book, after you have gotten past a few chapters it is captivating and well worth the read.

Celebrate Fair Use Week!

February 16th, 2017

What is fair use? 

Fair use is a part of copyright law, and describes how ownership over copyright is limited in order to benefit our society.

It’s what allows teachers to use materials in the classroom, artists to remix to create new works, and comedians to parody the news.

What is Fair Use Week?

Fair Use Week takes place the last week of February, and is a time to celebrate how this special and important part of copyright law has allowed us all to use copyrighted material.

How can I learn more about fair use?

The Gleeson Library and Zief Law Library are partnering on an event, please join us for conversation and snacks!

Fair Use Week 2017 Brown Bag: Using Copyrighted Work in Your Courses
Date: Thursday, February 23rd
Time: 12-1 pm
Where: Zief Law Library, Terrace Room
Contact: Scholarly Communications Librarian Charlotte Roh,
I can’t make it to this event, where can I learn more?
The Center for Social and Media Impact has fair use guidelines for many situations at
You can also talk to any librarian at Gleeson, or contact Charlotte Roh at

Black History Month at Gleeson Library

February 14th, 2017

Did you know that the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library was the “place to go” during the Harlem Renaissance? Or that one of the first civil rights sit-ins took place in a library?

This year, Gleeson Library is commemorating Black History Month with an interactive display about African American Librarians, Libraries, and Library History.


The display begins with a panel about the 135th Street branch and the team of innovative librarians that, during the 1920s, helped turn the library into an intellectual hub that represented and celebrated its African American community. The display also considers how Nikki Giovanni’s poems about libraries remember the implications of segregation in the United States. Finally, the display features information about contemporary African American librarians, including the first woman and first African American to become the Librarian of Congress – Dr. Carla Hayden, who was sworn in last year.

African American librarians and libraries are an important part of American history — one that Gleeson’s display hopes to encourage people to learn about and engage with this particular month, and beyond.

Throughout February, the library also has on display a collection of books by authors who were recommended by student members of the Womyn of Color Conference Committee at USF.

For more information about about other Black History Month Events at USF:


Student Social Justice Exhibits

February 9th, 2017

Gleeson Library cordially invites USF students to create library displays on social justice issues near and dear to you. You come up with the idea and design your own signage. The library will supply the space and the books. Sound intriguing? We’d love to hear from you. Please email to collaborate on a student social justice exhibit.


Robert Graves Collection in the Rare Book Room

February 7th, 2017

During my first week as a Student Assistant in the Donohue Rare Book Room I was able to work with sources from the Robert Graves collection. This sparked my interest in learning more about the author and why the Rare Book Room would have such an impressive selection.

Robert Graves was born in Wimbledon on the 24th of July, 1895. Graves displayed a talent for writing poetry early in his life. After he finished his secondary education he received a scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, but he instead enlisted in the Royal Welch Fusiliers after the outbreak of WWI. At the battle of the Somme he was critically wounded by fragments from an artillery shell that had exploded near him. Graves was actually reported dead due to the severity of these injuries. He recovered and was one of the rare survivors of the “lost generation.” During his recovery time Graves began working on his first novel that would remain unpublished.

Graves then began his career of writing novels, prose, and poetry. Although his novels were more commercially successful, it is stated that Graves wished to be remembered as a poet first and as a novelist second. Graves passed away on the 7th of December, 1985.

I found this information in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, one of the library’s databases.

The Robert Graves collection in the Rare Book Room features handwritten drafts of poems, doodles, and personal correspondence with family members and friends. This collection provides a glimpse into Grave’s process of writing poetry. Some of these poems would later be published in his collections Man Does, Woman Is (1964) and Collected Poems (1975).

The Rare Book Room also has copies of some of his novels including The Greek Myths (1955) and An Ancient Castle (1980), along with copies of published works of poetry

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The Donohue Rare Book Room holds many interesting collections that are available for browsing. I highly encourage students and faculty alike to explore and utilize the Rare Book Room.