Mental Health Awareness Month: Acknowledging Personal Struggle During Global Crisis

The month of May, designated Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949, gives us the opportunity to remember that well-being means mental as well as physical health. Most of us are feeling a bit more stressed and anxious than usual: what about those whose struggles are chronic or even life-long? Perhaps now is a good time to try to understand and empathize with the challenges faced by those suffering from long-stigmatized mental illnesses.

Our e-collections can support this quest! Two specially-curated collections in hoopla offer audio-visual perspective on some specific mental health issues, from bipolar disorder to eating disorders to manic depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder to schizophrenia and even postpartum depression. 2020 APL Mental Health Awareness Month: Audio offers a sample reading list from medical professionals, biographers, memoirists, and historians.

For a compelling autobiography written by a medical expert who, in the throes of fighting brain cancer, experienced symptoms similar to those suffered by dementia and schizophrenia patients, you might try the well-regarded book The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind by Barbara K. Lipska. Talk about learning empathy from the inside out!

The companion film collection in hoopla (2020 APL Mental Health Awareness Month: Film) features a number of documentary approaches to mental illness. By observing and acknowledging others’ struggles with mental health, we can individually and collectively remove the age-old stigma and fear of “madness” and strive to make the world a kinder place for sufferers.

Some of the bravest and most affecting writing about mental illness comes from those who have been there themselves. Amazingly, some of these writers have been able to wring humor and hope from otherwise harrowing experiences. For searingly honest but strangely uplifting–and yes, even funny–listens, try Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things and the newly-released The Hilarious World of Depression by radio announcer and podcaster John Moe. Both audio titles are available in Overdrive/Libby.

And remember that your awareness and concern support those who might otherwise be suffering almost invisibly during these difficult times.

Your Ticket to an At-Home Film Festival with hoopla and IndieFlix!

If you’re a culture vulture and/or film buff, you may be mourning the cancellation of film festivals around the country (like SXSW), the uncertain fate of Cannes, and the suspension of viewing opportunities like the MFA’s Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Film Program. For the latter, if you have a little extra cash, feel free to visit the new Virtual Screening Room for the museum’s hand-picked rentals. If you’d like to enjoy your own lockdown watch party for free through APL, read on!

This month, hoopla has introduced its “Art House” initiative to promote the sort of film fare that festivals and festival goers thrive upon. You’ll be spoilt for choice with 380 curated titles in four categories: Modern Indies, Documentaries, Global Cinema, and Classics. Have a helping of heartening, music-filled dramedy with Hearts Beat Loud. Escape to the frozen wild with the award-winning Antarctica: A Year on Ice (talk about effective social distancing!). For a pilgrimage through a more populated realm, have a look at the cinematically lovely Arabian Nights, a glimpse of Portugal during another recent global crisis (the Great Recession) that has been touted as “a colorful, surreal, and politically potent palimpsest of a film.”* Or savor a classic favorite like The Red Balloon. Your ticket to Cinema Paradiso? You guessed it–your Marblehead library card!

While you’re in the mood for culturally-informed cinema, you might well want to check out another of our streaming sources for top-notch, out-of-the-ordinary viewing: RBDigital’s IndieFlix! Use your library card to open an account, check out a 7-day pass, binge, and repeat. (If you’ve never logged on before, please see the blog’s FAQs page.)

Put on your best film-critic face, pull up a couch, and let the Quarantine Film Fest begin!

*Quoted material from hoopladigital.

Comment below with what films you are watching!

Minds Behind the Magic: Favorite Children’s Authors in Audio and Film

Chances are, you’ve been spending a good bit more time with the kids recently. Are you struggling just to remember how it feels to be a child, let alone figuring out how it feels to be one in the middle of a global crisis? If so, you might turn to some old friends for inspiration–writers who, Peter Pan-like, never seemed to lose their passports to the realm of childhood, and who have made the lives of their readers all the richer for their magic.

If you’d like to get to know these remarkable personalities better, why not have a listen to the biographies curated in a brand-new hoopla audiobook collection: 2020 APL Minds Behind the Magic Audio? Here, you’ll find portraits of imaginations born out of the crisis of World War I in books like A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and the Great War by Joseph Loconte or Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle Earth by John Garth. (To enjoy a glimpse of Tolkien’s own parenting approach, you might also take a look at his playful Letters from Father Christmas, a richly-illustrated ebook available on hoopla.)

In a similar vein, Louisa May Alcott’s life and writing were undoubtedly shaped by crisis: childhood privation and the Civil War loom large in her biographies. For a well-rounded study, try Susan Cheever’s Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; to observe the strong mother-daughter bond that shaped Alcott, listen to Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eva LaPlant. 

In the memoirs of Christopher Robin Milne, we have a different sort of perspective: the complicated influence of famous children’s author A. A. Milne and his works on his own son. While the two-part autobiography (The Enchanted Places and The Path through the Trees) is not all sunshine, it offers some fascinating windows onto Winnie-the-Pooh’s world and its creator. Even more compelling is The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, a biography-cum-ramble through rural England.

For further insight into the minds behind the magical worlds of classic children’s literature, have a look at a companion film collection in hoopla, available here.

The House of the Seven Gables and hoopla: A Match Made in Heaven

Stuck at home with some time to spare? This is the perfect opportunity to get caught up on all of that classic lit you’ve been meaning to read! Start local with Salem’s own Dark Romanticism poster boy, Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Our hoopla digital collection has a veritable treasure trove of Hawthorne’s greatest hits to explore. The Scarlet Letter? Check. Young Goodman Brown? Check. Twice-Told Tales? You guessed it: check.

You can also find both the ebook and audiobook versions of his famed novel The House of the Seven Gables on hoopla. Take a peek at the 1940 film starring George Sanders, Margaret Lindsay, and Vincent Price and the made-for-television adaptation starring Shirley Temple, too!

And if that’s not enough to get your Seven Gables fix, check out the Images of America series guide to The House of the Seven Gables. This volume places the 352-year-old namesake of Hawthorne’s novel in its historical context, from its early days as a private residence to the advent of the house’s present form as a tourist destination. 

Yearning for more? Our museum partners at the House of the Seven Gables have been hard at work creating virtual content to tide you over until you can visit the museum in person again. Their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest social media pages are chockablock with excellent resources for all ages covering Hawthorne, his works, and the house that inspired him. The House of the Seven Gables also has a dedicated webpage for all of their digital content, including streaming lectures and community conversations, interactive exhibitions, and a slew of at-home learning resources (including a really awesome Seven Gables-inspired scavenger hunt!).

So if you’re missing that “rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst” do yourself a favor and experience The House of the Seven Gables in all of its wonderful forms online. Happy exploring!

Poets, Poetry, and Film

Poetic expression often thrives in times of upheaval, as a means of mastering hardship and mustering hope. With that in mind, why not have a look at two library-curated collections of films available through hoopla that observe poets and poems doing just that: 2020 APL Poets, Poetry, & Film and 2020 APL Poets, Poetry, & TV? While poetry and film may seem to be unlikely bedfellows, you might well be amazed by how potent their artistic partnership can be!

History, culture, and sociopolitical issues often find expression in the poetic. Documentaries like O Captain, My Captain: Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War remind us that the tragedies of war and the consolations of poetry have always coexisted. Certain poets can come to embody historical eras, as is the case with the 12th-century polymath Hildegard von Bingen (Vision) and, more familiarly, Allen Ginsberg and the Beat movement in Howl. Themes of societal trauma and incarceration surface in Voices Beyond The Wall: Twelve Love Poems from The Murder Capital of The World and A Place to Stand.

Not surprisingly, a number of the films we’ve curated live at the intersections of poetry with biography or romance. Get to know the elusive Emily Dickinson in My Letter to the World or the larger-than-life Byron in a biopic starring Jonny Lee Miller. Explore relationships through a poetic lens with the suicidal lovers of Amour Fou or with former lovers awkwardly reunited in The Song of Lunch. Or just curl up and savor the romantic romp through iambic pentameter that is Shakespeare in Love.

This is just a sampling of the poetry-infused film collection available to explore on hoopla–we hope you’ll celebrate National Poetry Month with us there!

Comfort Food TV

Are you craving a little cinematic culinary comfort? Longing to savour a sumptuous series? The Abbot Public Library has curated a select menu of foodie-approved film and television fare just for our patrons! If you’re in the mood for a side of romance with an at-home dinner date, you may just try Ang Lee’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman or Chocolat (this one starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, and Judi Dench). Or perhaps you’d like to escape our troubled present and time-travel to a Victorian dining room with Christopher Kimball in Fannie’s Last Supper, a recreation of one of Fannie Farmer’s decadent 12-course meals. We invite you to sample all of these films and more from our library-curated film collection on hoopla2020 APL Comfort Food Cinema

For some tasty kitchen-sink drama, you might also try Acorn TV’s series Delicious or Pie in the Sky; to sample menus from great British country houses of the past, take a look at Lords and Ladles. Just open your RBDigital app and search for the titles!

If your tastes run to food-filled adventure, then tune in to another of the library’s special hoopla collections: 2020 APL Comfort Food TV. Here, you can sink your teeth into some food/travel documentaries like Paul & Nick’s Big American Food Trip or No Passport Required. If tea is, well, your cup of tea, travel round the world to learn all about it with Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea on Acorn TV (again, search the title in your RBDigital app). Or get in the kitchen and get your hands messy with the pros of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country–further selections to be found in the hoopla 2020 APL Comfort Food TV collection. Your culinary quest awaits!

If you’re eager to tickle your tastebuds with these offerings (and much more) but have not yet signed up for hoopla or Acorn TV, please take a look at our FAQ page to get started. Bon appetit!