Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

...then i met my sister by Christine Hurley Deriso

It's not exactly easy living in a shrine to your dead sister. Since birth, I've known that everyone loved Shannon. She was perfect--beautiful, smart, talented. And me? Not so much. My parents always expected me to live up to her greatness. But I could never measure up to her, so why even try?

This summer, I've started reading the journal Shannon kept just before she died . . . and suddenly nothing is what I thought it was. The more secrets I learn about Shannon and our family, the more everything changes. And as it turns out, facing the truth is no cakewalk, either.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis form

Monday, September 29, 2014

NEW at the FSHA Library

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacityinsouciance,karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of MiraclesThe Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My JRP/SRP Proposal

Ok, here it is.  My initial proposal for research. Mr Buxman has already identified several areas where I need to be more clear/thoughtful/focused/or unbiased.  So I'm glad I have another few days to tweak things before I submit this for the SRP, haha!  Please feel free to comment as you see fit!

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
Junior/Senior Research Project
Research Proposal
Nora Murphy

Please briefly describe your idea for research here:

Angola Prison in Louisiana is one of several plantation prisons in the American South.  After the Civil War, Major Samuel James purchased and consolidated a number of plantations on the land where the prison now resides, running the farm using the labor of convicts leased from the state.  His operation was shut down in the 1890s when the state purchased the land and established the Louisiana State Penitentiary.  Today the prison is run by Warden Burl Cain.  It is the largest prison in America.  76% of the inmates are Black.  71% are serving life sentences.  Prison staff live on site in a community called B-line; many of these staff members are from families that have worked the prison for multiple generations.  The prison has a golf course, a gift shop and visitors center, and twice a year it stages a rodeo for nearly 10,000 spectators.  It has been called the bloodiest prison in America, and has been cited for excessive use of solitary confinement and a high rate of prisoner abuse.

Angola is not the only plantation prison, and plantation prisons are not the only problematic correctional facilities in the US.  The cultural context of slavery weighs heavily on Angola and the consequent implications for racial politics in this country are grave.  During the reign of our first African-American president there has been some discussion of “post-racial America”, or an America without racial tension and prejudice, as if this electoral achievement erased the dark mark slavery and Jim Crow left on our social systems.  The contrast between post-racial America and reality of Angola prison could not be more stark.  

I am interested in exploring the racial tension surrounding the American prison system, specifically plantation prisons like Angola.  I would like to examine the possibility of stripping away the cultural context to see if Angola is like or unlike other large prisons in America.  I plan to consider the ways in which the legacy of slavery in our prison system was solidified in the writing of the 13th Amendment, and how the link between servitude and punishment has been cultivated in our prisons.  I am curious about how these topics are perceived differently by those who are in close proximity to racially charged communities like many in the deep south.  Finally, I plan to discuss the problems inherent in claims that ours is, or could be, a post-racial society.

Please include a list of four questions for investigation here:

  1. Can the prison plantation be stripped of its cultural context in order to examine it alongside more “typical” American prisons?  Is it only the perceived context of slavery that makes Angola appear to be different from other non-plantation prisons; is it in fact similar to other prisons in its racial makeup, use of punishment, religious fervor, and so on?

  1. How is the plantation prison perceived by those who live in regions in which they exist?  Is the plantation model more acceptable/invisible to those who are geographically mired in the racial legacy of slavery? Does the plantation model increase our distaste for the prison system because of its link to slavery, and if so, what then is being overlooked about the problems of our correctional institutions in general?

  1. How are references to post-racial America problematic in light of the existence of plantation prisons?  When many of the policies in place in our prison system in general appear to be directly linked to attempts to cling to pre-Civil Rights and even pre-Civil War structures (e.g. restricted access to information, predominantly white prison staff, etc.), how does the criminal justice system fit into the theoretical framework of ‘post-racial America’?

  1. What is the relationship between criminal behavior and servitude that persists in the American mindset? How have state or federal courts relied on the language of the 13th amendment to support/uphold prison systems like Angola?  

Research Plan

List search terms and phrases that you will use to explore your topic:

plantation prisons, prison rodeos, cultural geography, legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, 13th Amendment, plantation nostalgia, exploitation, post-racial theory,

List primary source types you intend to examine here.  Make sure to indicate how you will attempt to locate these sources (e.g. museums, films, collections of poetry):
In your wildest dreams, if you could get your hands on any primary sources you wanted, what would they be?  If you can imagine them, we can look for them.

  • memoirs or interviews with prisoners from Angola
  • documents related to the writing of the 13th Amendment
  • prison music - spirituals and blues - that are reminiscent of slave spirituals and work songs
  • press releases from Angola re: allegations of poor treatment of prisoners
  • original data collection idea - survey students from Metairie Park Country Day in New Orleans AND Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy - to gauge responses to plantation prison imagery, factoids, etc.

List possible sources of secondary information (e.g. specific databases, libraries) you intend to explore:
If/when we say YES to your proposal, what will you do next?  Where will you begin your research?

  • demographic data on American prisons (use of solitary, prisoner assault, racial makeup, number of life sentences, length of terms)
  • books about the “new Jim Crow” theory of american prisons
  • Questia and Jstor searches on plantation prisons and correctional politics
  • additional sources collected in my diigo library

Please indicate whether you need highly specialized research assistance, and what that might be.


What sources did you consult in order to do your background research on the topic?  You do not need to include formal citations here.  Simply give us an idea where you got your info (Wikipedia is OK, talking to teachers is OK too).

In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance by Wilbert Rideau

Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow" - 2013 George E. Kent Lecture

Prison Is The New Plantation

Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo

Angola Prison Rodeo

Slavery Haunts America’s Plantation Prisons

36 Years of Solitude

God's Own Warden

Friday, September 26, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world. 

We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad. 

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first "real world" apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.

Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel, and finding the strength — and the support — to carry on.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

So Punk Rock (and other ways to disappoint your mother) by Micol Ostow

Despite his dreams of hipster rock glory, Ari Abramson's band, the Tribe, is more white bread than indie-cred. Made up of four suburban teens from a wealthy Jewish school, their Motley Crue is about as hardcore as SAT prep and scripture studies.

But after a one-song gig at a friend's Bar Mitzvah--a ska cover of "Hava Nagilah"--the Tribe's popularity erupts overnight. Now, Ari is forced to navigate a minefield of inflated egos, misplaced romance, and the shallowness of indie-rock elitism. It's a hard lesson in the complex art of playing it cool.  

For more information, visit:

Other links for So Punk Rock

The Tribe Myspace page: http: //

Ari on Twitter: http: //

Reena on Twitter: http: //

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JRP Tip: Look at the rubric while writing your proposal

Ladies, please make sure you are consulting the rubric as you put together your proposal for Sunday.  Here is the description of a proposal that will earn a 5:

The student's proposal presents an engaging, complex idea that is firmly based in American Studies.  The student's idea clearly stems from one of the suggested themes, and may even present a original sub-theme.  The proposal shows a preliminary grasp of the subject matter; it is obvious that the student conducted some research in order to identify and define some of the major topics and terms related to her topic.  The proposal is thoughtful and complete, and the research questions are clear and specific enough for the student to pursue successfully. The research plan presented (search terms, possible source types) shows insight into what are the necessary next steps of the process. The student is able to proceed without significant revision.

So, ask yourself as you complete your work:

Am I asking questions about American culture and society?
Am I considering the themes presented on the project LibGuide?
Are my thoughts about the theme I'm exploring CLEAR?
Have I conveyed that I did some reading on this topic and know a few things about it?
Did someone I know and trust read through this in order to give me feedback?

We're all looking forward to reading your proposals!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My SRP: Brainstorm, part deux

I chucked all of my ideas out the window this morning and decided to start from scratch.  I was doing this wrong.  I was thinking about topics based on what I thought I should research, not what I really wanted to research.  My mother always says, "Don't say should".  So, I'm starting over.

My first thought was to research the Free People of Color in New Orleans in the 18th and 19th centuries.  I'm totally fascinated by the fact that there were African-American doctors, teachers, and business owners in New Orleans living in such close proximity to (and often owning) slaves.  how did that happen?  How did it change after the Civil War?  What rights did Free People of Color lose or retain during and after Reconstruction?

Then I started thinking about my interest in New Orleans and Louisiana in general.  I think that state, and especially that city, are totally unlike any other place in the US.  The port of New Orleans means that the city is as multicultural as a place can get, in a deeply rooted, so-far-back-I-can-hardly-remember, cuisine and music producing way.  Louisiana is, in spite of this seemingly diverse cultural center, a hotbed of American racism.  I mean this is some severe and damaging racism (not that all racism isn't, but I think you get my drift).  Horrid, nasty, far reaching racism.

Then I thought about Angola Prison.

This is the art project that started my interest.
Several years ago I went to the New Orleans Contemporary Art Center and saw an installation that was a replica of a solitary confinement cell from Angola.  Three men, the Angola Three, who had been sent to Angola in 1971, were accused of killing a prison guard in 1972 and placed in solitary confinement.  One stayed there for 29 years.  The other two were in their cells for FORTY years.  Did you read that correctly?  Yes, you did.  FORTY years.  An organization working to release the last of the three was planning to build him his dream house, made mostly of windows.  He died three days after his release. I've been thinking about this for years.

So, Ms. Ortega and I started googling.

the rodeo
Angola has an annual prison rodeo that, to me, smacks of gladiators at the Colosseum.
Angola has a golf course and tourist center.
Angola is known as the bloodiest prison in America, and federal courts have called its treatment of prisoners "cruel and unusual".
Angola is bigger than the island of Manhattan.

looks like something from the early 1800s, doesn't it?
So, I am TOTALLY hooked on this topic.  What is the deal with Angola?  If the treatment of the prisoners' is so awful, why hasn't it been shut down?  Why are they spending time and money on a rodeo?  And what is that rodeo supposed to symbolize?  Who even attends the rodeo, and what are the implications of that in terms of condoning the exploitation of these men?  Are they being exploited, or are they happy to participate?

I could go on all day, and I'm going to go on ALL YEAR.  I am giddy.  My curiosity is through the dang roof.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Questia Online Library

As we begin the year with research assignments galore, don't forget about Questia, a huge database of full-text articles and ebooks in all subject areas.  You can find a link to Questia on the Library's web page (scroll down to the list of databases).  Each teacher and student will need to log in to use this service.  An email has been sent to you with your login information.

I just want to highlight a few of the amazing features of this site.  I'm sure you'll find even more as you explore it this year.  

Once you've logged in, you can search for something specific, or browse be subject area.

 When you choose a book or article to read, you can also search within that text for a word, phrase, place name, person, etc.

 Not only that, you can use the tabs over on the right to navigate the entire table of contents, look up a tricky word, or save work to view later.

Using those little icons back over on the left, you can highlight text, find out the proper citation for a quote, bookmark a page, or print just a small portion of what you read.

When you highlight a portion of the text, not only can you change the highlighter color (what a relief!), you can ask for help when using that text as part of your own writing.

Those are some of the basics of Questia School.  As I figure out great tips and tricks for using this service more efficiently, I'll let you know. Happy researching!

Reading The Crucible? Take a look at this book.

from the book jacket

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .
Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Banned Books Week

If you watched the morning announcements today, you heard my super-nervous plug for our Banned Books Week project.  (I really don't understand why that camera makes me so crazy since I address large groups of students ALL THE TIME. Whatever.)

Next week is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week.  Why is this important?  Because we are lucky.  We live in a country where we can read what we want, where that right is protected, where librarians and all kinds of people fight for that right, where we know that literature is a safe and profound exploration of the human condition and that it is art.  And we love art.

The American Library Association is the national organization of ninja-librarians who are constantly trying to make sure that literary art is available for free to anyone who wants to read it.  They have written a powerful statement about their commitment to the Freedom to Read, which you should ALL read.

Please come take a look at the books on display in the Library that have been banned or challenged in different communities in the US.  You won't believe what some people don't want you to read!

This Friday from 1-2pm, and again on Monday during lunch, the Film Club will shoot footage of students and faculty reading short passages from banned books.  We celebrate our freedom to read by reading banned books!  Please join us by selecting a passage that you'd like to read to exert your right to read what you choose.

More information on banned or challenged books can be found:
Yearly lists of banned or challenged books
Freedom to Read Foundation

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Last Bookstore

Downtown Los Angeles
5th and Spring
two stories
a tunnel made out of books
a labyrinth
new and used books
I will let the pictures say the rest.
Needless to say, I think you should go there immediately.
All of you.
Like, as soon as possible.

JRP bonus - They have a great American Studies section on the first floor!


in the labyrinth

where you pay

view from 2nd floor

ALL of these books are American Studies titles.
A great place to browse for sources, and also just for JRP topic ideas.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Calling all Gamer Girls (bonus: SRP topic idea)

Anyone out there like games?  Video games? Computer games?  Games on your phone?  C'mon, I know you've at least played some Candy Crush.  Oh wait, wasn't there some game that everyone was obsessed with last year?  What was is.....oh, right!  Octagon!  If you like games, you need to know about Jane McGonigal.  She is a super gamer girl, and one who has made a career out of designing games that will CHANGE THE WORLD.  That's right.  She's on a mission.  McGonigal is harnessing the power of games, and specifically the power of collective game-playing, to create games that solve complicated scientific and ecological problems that would take years to crack using traditional methods.  How cool is that?  She started in this direction after a brain injury caused her to design games to re-train her brain to do certain things that had become more difficult as result of a severe concussion.  Wow.

Here's the SRP topic idea - games as tools to advance social or environmental justice causes
This is a real thing. People are doing this.  Take a look at Games for Change, on organization that creates games to engage people in environmental and social issues.  Or Creo, a group that uses games to increase interest in science topics.

Here's McGonigal talking about some of her awesome ideas:

You can read Jane McGonigal's book, Reality is Broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world, in the Library. Here's a synopsis from

More than 31 million people in the UK are gamers. The average young person in the UK will spend 10,000 hours gaming by the age of twenty-one. What's causing this mass exodus? According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal the answer is simple: videogames are fulfilling genuine human needs. Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science and sociology, Reality is Broken shows how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy, and utilized these discoveries to astonishing effect in virtual environments. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, she reveals how gamers have become expert problem solvers and collaborators, and shows how we can use the lessons of game design to socially positive ends, be it in our own lives, our communities or our businesses. Written for gamers and non-gamers alike, Reality is Broken sends a clear and provocative message: the future will belong to those who can understand, design and play games.

Think about it!  You could choose an SRP topic that requires you to PLAY GAMES.  I'm a genius.

My SRP: considering a topic

Thanks to Carly and Siera, it looks like I'll be completing a Senior Research Project along with the class of 2015.  It's fitting I suppose, since I started working on our Research Curriculum with this class way, way back in Biology and Health classes their freshman year.  I'm excited to select my topic!

This is Avol's.  It's in a different space than when
I worked there, and now it's merged with a great
feminist bookstore called A Room of One's Own.
On Friday, Carly asked me why I enjoy this so much.  Why do I love research projects, teaching students to conduct research, locating information, etc.?  Then Siera asked if I dreamed of being a Librarian when I was a kid.  That got a laugh from the class, but it's really an excellent question.  In some ways my life has been heading in this direction for a long, long time.  My dad is an information hound.  He reads widely and deeply on a crazy range of subjects.  He seeks out obscure references and sources.  He remembers everything.  Some of that must have rubbed off on me.  Not to mention the fact that I spent countless hours at the public library doing homework and projects with friends when I was a kid.  I loved it there.  There were these purple chairs that would spin around and around, and we all knew the strange section of the library where there were books on subliminal messages in advertisements, and it was so cool to request some old archived magazine article and have the Librarian slip into the back and reappear with it in his hand.  The best job I ever had (until now!) was at Avol's Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.  It's a great, academic used bookstore in a college town, so the customers were professors, grad student, and sometimes famous musician s or writers.  I sold books to Shel Silverstein, Henry Rollins, and Rob Zombie more than once.  People would come in looking for a book or a topic, and I would lead them around the store to check various sections like mysticism, political history, books on books (one of my favorites), literature in translation, engineering.  You name it, we had a section on it.  I cannot tell you how satisfying it was to finally find that one, special book that someone had been looking for over months and years.  Or to lead someone to a section where they would browse for an hour and then emerge with a handful of worn, dog-eared, sweet smelling paperbacks to take home.  I mean, come on!  It's a great moment when that happens, and I guess I just like being there for all of those great moments.

So, I take pleasure in helping you find what you need, what you love, what you've been looking for without knowing it.  That's my story, and that's what I'm going to try to study during the SRP.

My first thought was that I'd study something about art and information, specifically that way art can be used to manipulate information, to spread mis- or disinformation.
Then I thought I'd go back to my old Foundations of Information course and dig up some Marshall McLuhan, the father of Information Studies.  Have you ever heard the phrase "the medium is the message"?  That's McLuhan, and I might want to ask some questions about his work, though I'm not there yet.
Then I thought I would consider libraries and access to information.  What is the nature of libraries? How are they essential to our civilization?  But that seems obvious.

There is something on the tip of my tongue.  Something about McLuhan and libraries and that feeling people get when they zero in on an answer.  I have to do some more thinking, but I will say I am SUPER happy that I was challenged to do this.  It's going to be great.

If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my posts, make sure to scroll down and follow this blog by submitting your email address.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it looks like Mr. Buxman is going to be my research advisor, along with Siera as a secondary advisor.  God help me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

JRP Topic Idea: America's Only Original Art Form?

It's America's only original art form. It's the baseball of music!  It has no melody!  I can't dance to it!

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know.” 

― Louis Armstrong

Wait, no!  That's not true.  Don't worry, you can ask.  Really!  I mean, what is jazz anyway?  Where did it come from?  Why are there so many different kinds of it?  Who even likes to listen to it anyway?

Maybe it's time for you to find out.  Just think about it - part of your research could be to just sit back and listen to music.  How great is that?

You could listen to this,

or this

or this

or this (a personal favorite)

or this

or even this (though I warn you, it's REALLY experimental and odd)

So, why IS this the original American art form?  What is so American about it?  Please, tell me!

If you're interested, check out these books and sites:

Grammy Museum and Blue Note Records
Ken Burns' History of Jazz

10 Largest Libraries in the World

JRP Topic Idea: Art and History Intersect

Juniors looking for a topic idea for the JRP:

Have you ever considered political cartoons and posters?  How do humor and art contribute to our understanding of American culture and society?  Can we understand our national identity and collective history more fully by examining something as deceptively simple as cartoons?  Why do we express our political positions through cartoons in the first place?

Take a look at some of the cartoons below (from our very on FOF database).  Some of you artists out there MUST find these fascinating, right?  If you're interested, I've also recommended some further reading at the bottom of this page.  Happy thinking!

political cartoon depicts a Standard Oil tank as an octopus. One of its tentacle wraps around the steel, copper, and shipping industries, as well as a state house and U.S. Capitol, while another reaches for the White House."Cartoon Depicting Standard Oil." American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. 
This political cartoon, which appeared in the humor magazine Puck in January 1904, is entitled "Jack and the Wall Street Giants." It shows President Theodore Roosevelt facing giants of business and finance J. P. MorganJames J. HillJohn D. Rockefeller, and Jay Gould. Roosevelt is holding a typical progressive sword: public service."Theodore Roosevelt: 'Jack and the Wall Street Giants'." American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. 

In 1871 Tammany Hall, a powerful political machine that dominated New York City politics from the 1850s until the 1930s, was exposed for its widespread corruption under the leadership of William M. Tweed. This cartoon depicts Boss Tweed as a bullying teacher giving New York City comptroller Richard B. Conally a lesson in wildly inaccurate arithmetic."Cartoon Satirizing the Tammany Hall Political Machine." American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
"I did not raise my girl to be a voter!" sings the Anti, or anti-suffrage, woman in this 1915 cartoon from the humor magazine Puck. Many antis were conservative society ladies, but, as this pro-suffrage cartoon points out, their allies were the political boss, procurer, saloon owner, child labor employer, grafter, cadet (pimp), and sweatshop owner."Women's Suffrage: 'I Did Not Raise My Girl to Be a Voter!'." American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
Here are links to two great sites dedicated to American political cartoons.

Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
Cartoon America from the Library of Congress

You can also come check out this book from the FSHA Library: