Category Archives: American Culture

Posts to do with American culture, places, and history excluding WW2 history

Book Review: Thanks Obama, My Hopey Changey White House Years

By Danielle Prostrollo

The last few weeks in the library have been a veritable book lover’s Christmas. A ton of new stock has come in, and picking one to highlight was difficult. I picked this one because the subject of the autobiography. The author is a speechwriter and ‘people behind the people’ stories fascinate me.

Thanks Obama: my hopey changey White House Years, by David Litt

thanks obama

To head this review off, I thought the book was great. The story centers around a White House speech writer, David Litt, and his journey from newbie underling to member of Obama’s trusted team. It would be easy to dismiss this book as an Obama love letter, but this is not about the former president. It’s not even actually about the administration. It is rare to get a glimpse into life on The Hill from someone who does not stand directly in the public light.  
 
Equally important and refreshing, is the writing style. The book reads without difficulty, like a buddy is filling you in on his day. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise, Litt is a speechwriter, after all. There is an unexpected amount of humor and relatability in the book. He talks about feeling invincible, about moments of awkward embarrassment, and the relatable moments of utter boredom. But, interspersed between these normal-person feelings are trips on Air Force One, nights out at Lincoln Center, and conversations with the President.
 
You don’t need to be a policy wonk to enjoy this book. Anyone interested in a little glimpse into the political life, enjoyed The West Wing, or reads every book that comes about The Hill, will enjoy this read.

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Filed under American Culture, American Politics, Books

New Resource: American National Biography Online

by Don Allen

Being a part of the Norfolk Libraries network definitely has its advantages, and I wanted to take a quick second or three to highlight one of our newest: access to the American National Biography Online.

American National Biography Online

ANB has over “19,000 biographies of significant, influential or notorious figures from American history written by prominent scholars”. This number includes over 1600 biographies of people who were armed forces and intelligence personnel, from Henry Larcom Abbot (1831-1927) , a union soldier and engineer, to Elmo Russell Zumwalt Jr. (1920-2000), an admiral in the US Navy. (See what I did there? A-Z. Ha. I slay me.) Other categories include politics, law and crime, and sports.

It is available to anyone with a Norfolk Library card, either in the library or from a home computer or mobile device. I’ve had a browse through some of the biographies, and they are quite good. While most are relatively short, they are packed with information. Some, like the article on Abraham Lincoln, are longer, but still, when compared to a full book, get to the highlights pretty quickly. Any fan of American history will surely love this site, and I highly recommend it.

Access American National Biography Online from home using your Norfolk library card.  Enter NOR before the number when prompted (with no spaces).

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Filed under American Culture, American History, Online Resources

Book Review: Wonder Woman – Ambassador of Truth

By Danielle Prostrollo

“As lovely as Aphrodite—as wise as Athena—with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules—she is known only as Wonder Woman, but who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!”—All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941-January 1942)

wonderwoman

New in the collection at the Memorial Library is a new Wonder Woman compilation. The hardback details the history of the character and follows each of her incarnations – from her first appearance in Action Comics, the Lynda Carter’s TV series, multiple animated series, and the recent feature film as well as beautiful photograph and several inserts, reproductions of Amazonian ephemera, as well as interviews with people key to the story of Diana Prince.

This book will appeal to all readers – young and old, those new to the Wonder Woman story and those who have followed her for years. It is easy to take several passes through this book in short order, page through for the photographs, again for the interviews and footnotes, and a third time to take in the great written history. At 175 pages you’ll fly through the book as if it takes no time at all.

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Filed under American Culture, American History, Books, Memorial Library

Book Review: The Strip by Stefan Al

by Danielle Prostrollo

A new book to the library collection is The Strip by Stefan Al. Showcasing the history of the iconic American destination, breaking it down into eras, and delving deep into each casino and hotel’s story. There are photographs that show off each casino, increasingly taller, shinier, and extreme and Al’s writing put each of these casinos into the bigger context of Las Vegas history.

the strip

According to the Al, Las Vegas’ relationship with tourism began with a Wild West phase, resorts styled to look and feel like a frontier town before moving on to the post-War modernist. Innovations were made, such as placing a pool by the casino for leisurely lounging, only to be followed by leisurely gaming in the pool (as was the case at the Sands casino’s floating craps table). This transition was punctuated by the “Big Switch”, the multi-million dollar renovation of the Last Frontier resort into the New Frontier resort. The cowboy image was now in the rear view mirror and the space race was on.

Following this era of change the country, in a frenzy of atomic fever, leapt at the opportunity to partake in mushroom cloud-gazing. Las Vegas was in the right place for the public to make their pilgrimage for a chance to see atomic testing and the city did not waste that opportunity. Providing atomic cocktails and lunch menus, the resorts catered to their clientele. In the 1960s The Strip really started to gain height, with new casinos being built taller and taller. If there was any doubt that the frontier image of the dessert city was dead, this would certainly be it.

Building on the growth of the previous decades, the 1980s saw expansion into hyper-thematic resorts. Treasure Island, Excalibur, and the Luxor were all constructed during this “theme park”-like era. And from the extremes of giant castles and pirate ships, the strip pushed back toward the center focusing on equally enticing flights-of-fancy such as fake beaches, Venetian canals, and world landmarks. Taking the reader into present day, Al talks of the “star-chitect” trend. Recent casinos and resorts have relied on the name recognition of famous architects to bring notoriety and traffic to their destinations.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in American architecture, entertainment, or modern American history.

Find it at the Memorial Library or reserve it here

Check out some of our other recent book reviews here:

Unforgotten New York

Hope in the Dark

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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Travel, Books