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Hollywood North: Film In Canada

September 6, 2016 | Beau | Comments (0)

The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off its 41st anniversary beginning on September 8th, and while it has become one of the premier showcases for movies from around the world since its founding in 1976, we shouldn't let the international flavour of the festival obscure the fact that Canada has had a thriving film industry for well over a century now, with its own home-grown crop of critically-renowned directors, actors and films. If you're interested in learning more about "Hollywood North," the Toronto Public Library has an appropriately vast collection of books and DVDs with historical and critical appraisals of the rich history of film in this country.

Canadian Cinema Since The 1980s
               100 Years Of Canadian Cinema               Weird Sex And Snowshoes   


The Young The Restless And The Dead


          Toronto On Film World Film Locations Toronto


          Hollywood North  Hollywood North The Feature Film Industry In British Columbia  Dreaming In The Rain


Film And The City


Reel Asian


Film In Canada Canadian National Cinema


          Quebec National Cinema    The Radio Eye      Essays On Quebec Cinema

Disco as Pop Culture: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life From a Broken Heart

August 20, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

If disco wasn't part of your life growing up you missed something fantastic. It's not too late though to add it into your dance and clothing repertoire. The platform and stiletto shoe, the gold and silver lamé (for men and women), the glittery glass disco ball, the polyester shirt, Soul Train, the Solid Gold Dancers all evoke that vibrant late 70s early 80s era.

 Disco spinning the story econtent DVD streaming via hoopla  Secret disco revolution the party that changed the world DVD

My pop culture is not your pop culture.  And that diversity is a great thing because we can sample each other's and create a very tasty melange of experience.  So, if you grew up wishing you could dance, look and act like they did in Saturday Night Fever then this should be a Proustian madeleine moment.  And, if you find this very retro and a bit hip, I urge you to try and dance in platform shoes and see what all the fun was about.

   Tony Manero DVD Raúl Peralta, a middle-aged criminal in 1970's Chile, is obsessed with the idea of impersonating Tony Manero, John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever. Every Saturday evening, he unleashes his passion for the film's music by imitating his idol and leading a small group of dancers as they perform at a bar in the outskirts of the city. His dream of being recognized as a successful showbiz star is about to become a reality when a Tony Manero impersonating contest is announced on national television. However, his obsession to reproduce his idol's likeness and perfect his act drives him to commit a series of violent crimes and thefts, leading to shocking violence and murder.  Saturday night fever DVD Tony is an undereducated Brooklyn teenager who is bored with his daytime job. The highlight of his week is going to the local disco, where he is the king of the dance floor. Tony meets Stephanie at the disco and they agree to dance together in a competition. Stephanie resists Tony's attempts to romance her, as she aspires to greater things. Gradually, Tony also becomes disillusioned with the life he is leading and he and Stephanie decide to help one another to start afresh.


And in case those disco moves beckon you and are not natural (or remembered).



And who knew fashion could be so dangerous?

1974 photo Big-Brimmed hat is hazardous for the driver because it blocks side vision. Another fashion hazard is platform shoes which reduces sensitivity of the foot on the pedals.  Toronto Star Archives

"Big-Brimmed hat is hazardous for the driver because it blocks side vision. Another fashion hazard is platform shoes which reduces sensitivity of the foot on the pedals".  1974 copyright Toronto Star Archives.


Fashionable clothing from the Sears catalogs late '70s

Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalog



  Disco by Johnny Morgan. This is the ultimate compendium for the dancing queens and the hustle-happy who put on their boogie shoes, shook their groove thing, and felt the night fever! From its beginnings in Paris, disco quickly spread around the world, taking hold of a small club on L.A.'s Sunset Strip and ultimately becoming a lifestyle that influenced everything from music and dancing to movies to fashion. Disco captures this incredible phenomenon with great storytelling and lavish photos and memorabilia from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.  Hot stuff  a brief history of disco. Examines the musical and cultural influences that transformed an era, the fashions and style of the period, disco's leading performers, and its long-term effects on American popular music and culture.

  Turn the Beat Around The History of Disco: A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. InTurn the Beat Around, critic and journalist Peter Shapiro traces the history of disco music and culture. From the outset, disco was essentially a shotgun marriage between a newly out and proud gay sexuality and the first generation of post-civil rights African Americans, all to the serenade of the recently developed synthesizer. Shapiro maps out these converging influences, as well as disco's cultural antecedents in Europe, looks at the history of DJing, explores the mainstream disco craze at it's apex, and details the long shadow cast by disco's performers and devotees on today's musical landscape. One part cultural study, one part urban history, and one part glitter-pop confection,Turn the Beat Aroundis the most comprehensive study of the Me Generation to date.   First ladies of disco  32 stars discuss the era and their singing careers: "The female vocalists who pioneered the disco genre in the '70s and early '80s were an extraordinarily talented group who dazzled the world with an exciting blend of elegance, soulful passion and gutsy fire. In this book of original interviews, 32 of these women tell their stories. Behind the scenes -- Dancing in heaven -- The first ladies of disco -- The Andrea True connection -- Claudja Barry -- Pattie Brooks -- Miquel Brown -- Linda Clifford -- Carol Douglas -- Yvonne Elliman -- Rochelle Fleming -- Gloria Gaynor -- Debbie Jacobs-Rock -- Madleen Kane -- Evelyn "Champagne" King -- Audrey Landers -- Suzi Lane -- Cynthia Manley -- Kelly Marie -- Maxine Nightingale -- Scherrie Payne -- Wardell Piper -- The Ritchie family, 1975-1978 -- The Ritchie family, 1978-1982 -- Barbara Roy/ecstasy, passion & pain -- Pamala Stanley -- Evelyn Thomas -- Jeanie Tracy -- Anita Ward -- Martha Wash -- Carol Williams -- Jessica Williams -- Norma Jean Wright.




Disco sandals in glitzy copper 1979 photo from the Toronto Star Archive

1979 Disco sandals in glitzy copper: New styles from Davids. Copyright Toronto Star Archives.


To disco, with love the records that defined an era. "With over 250 full color photographs of Disco's greatest album covers, paging through To Disco, with Love is like catching Saturday Night Fever all over again. From Diana Ross and Donna Summer gazing fiercely from their chart topping albums to the Village People's trademark costumes and the Bee Gee's blinding white jumpsuits, To Disco celebrates the days when the dance floor ruled the world"


And I will freely admit I learned to dance and dress watching Soul Train in the 70s. Soul surely has to be the foundation of Disco in style and sound.

The hippest trip in America Soul Train and the evolution of culture and style. "When it debuted in October 1971, seven years after the Civil Rights Act, Soul Train boldly went where no variety show had gone before, showcasing the cultural preferences of young African-Americans and the sounds that defined their lives: R&B, funk, jazz, disco, and gospel music. The brainchild of radio announcer Don Cornelius, the show's producer and host, Soul Train featured a diverse range of stars, from James Brown and David Bowie to Christine Aguilera and R. Kelly; Marvin Gaye and Elton John to the New Kids on the Block and Stevie Wonder. The Hippest Trip in America tells the full story of this pop culture phenomenon that appealed not only to blacks, but to a wide crossover audience as well. Famous dancers like Rosie Perez and Jody Watley, performers such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Barry White, and Cornelius himself share their memories, offering insights into the show and its time--a period of extraordinary social and political change. Colorful and pulsating, The Hippest Trip In America is a fascinating portrait of a revered cultural institution that has left an indelible mark on our national consciousness"--Publisher's web site.

The best of soul train DVD

The Best of Soul Train DVD




There is even sheet music you can borrow for those of you musically inclined.

Disco lives!  piano, vocal, guitar sheet music for vocal piano and guitar  The Disco Era Get Down and Boogie with 60 Far Out Hits Piano Vocal Guitar Songbook Score


      Disco Box Rhino Records CD boxed set only at the Toronto Reference Library Arts Dept on the 5th floor.

You may notice at your local library branch we're doing a promotion on popular culture where we're highlighting these subjects and if you click on the links you'll see some great suggestions for books to read and dvds to watch:






A Taste of Honey by Boogie Oogie Oogie




Super Freak by Rick James



Le Freak by Chic



The Hustle by Van McCoy



Fly Robin Fly by Silver Convention



Make Me Believe in You by Patti Jo





Remembering The Beatles’ Concerts in Toronto on August 17: Snapshots in History

August 18, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)







On August 17 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate the penultimate and the final concert pairings of The Beatles in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens on August 17, 1965 (18,000 attendance at both concerts) and August 17, 1966 (4pm: 15,000 attendance; 8pm: 17,000 attendance) respectively. The Beatles had initially visited Toronto to deliver two concerts on September 7, 1964, selling a total of 35,522 tickets.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has offered his remembrances of attending one of The Beatles’ concerts. The Market Gallery, one of the City of Toronto’s Historic Museums, is hosting an exhibition When The Beatles Rocked Toronto from June 18, 2016 to November 12, 2016 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ last visit to Toronto.

Torontonians wishing to celebrate The Beatles may also wish to consider borrowing materials from Toronto Public Library collections:


Music CDs:


Yellow submarine digital remaster   Help!



Our Hearts Went Boom the Beatles invasion of Canada


The Beatles in ... Canada the origins of Beatlemania!   All the songs the story behind every Beatles release   The Beatles are here! 50 years after the band arrived in America, writers and other fans remember   Allen Klein the man who bailed out the Beatles, made the Stones, and transformed rock & roll  



All the songs the story behind every Beatles release   The Beatles are here! 50 years after the band arrived in America, writers and other fans remember   Allen Klein the man who bailed out the Beatles, made the Stones, and transformed rock & roll  




The Beatles in their own write    The ultimate review the Beatles   The unseen Beatles  

Remembering the Art and the Mystery of Tom Thomson: August 5: Snapshots in History

August 5, 2016 | John P. | Comments (1)


Algonquin Park – Tom Thomson



April in Algonquin Park, 1917 – Tom Thomson

On August 5 and beyond, take a moment to remember Canadian painter Thomas John “Tom” Thomson (Born: August 5, 1877 in Claremont, Ontario; Died: July 8?, 1917 in Algonquin Park, Ontario), often cited as an artistic influence upon the Group of Seven before they formally established themselves as a group. A self-taught graphic designer with Toronto firm Grip Ltd., he developed his drafting skills but only began to paint seriously in 1912. Some of Thomson’s works began from sketches before being expanded into oil paintings. Thomson worked out of an old shack on the property of the now national historic site Studio Building at 25 Severn Street, an enclave for artists in Rosedale financed by Dr. James MacCallum and Lawren Harris (a Group of Seven member and heir to the Massey-Harris farm machinery business). Dr. MacCallum also served as Tom Thomson’s patron which helped to drive Thomson’s creative zenith as a painter during the 1914-1917 period. Unfortunately, like some artists, he sold few works during his lifetime. However, posthumous exhibitions drew increased attention to his work. For admirers of Thomson’s work, there are various places to view his paintings, including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound, Ontario.

In addition to Thomson’s work, his mysterious death at Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, on/around July 8, 1917, has fascinated Canadians for decades. Accident? Murder? Suicide? Those interested in interpreting the clues surrounding Thomson’s death for themselves have resources to fall back on, including the website Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy. Whether you are interested in the artwork of Tom Thomson, his untimely demise, or both, please also consider the following items for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:



The many deaths of Tom Thomson separating fact from fiction  The mysterious death of Tom Thomson  a wordless narrative told in one hundred and nine woodblock engravings  The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson  Painting Canada Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven  Tom Thomson artist of the North  A treasury of Tom Thomson  Northern light the enduring mystery of Tom Thomson and the woman who loved him   Tom Thomson design for a Canadian hero 



The many deaths of Tom Thomson separating fact from fiction  Tom Thomson artist of the North  Northern light the enduring mystery of Tom Thomson and the woman who loved him   Tom Thomson design for a Canadian hero



Summer Shore, Georgian Bay - Tom Thomson



The West Wind - Tom Thomson



Autumn Foliage, 1915 - Tom Thomson

Shakespeare's Macbeth: Double, Double Toil and Trouble

July 27, 2016 | Muriel | Comments (4)


There is so much toil and trouble in Shakespeare's Macbeth that I think it will continue to captivate audiences forever! Recently, I went to the Stratford Festival to see their excellent 2016 production of Macbeth, starring the mesmerizing Ian Lake as the power-mad Medieval Scottish general Macbeth. Macbeth is spurred on by his passionate wife Lady Macbeth (played by Krystin Pellerin) to murder King Duncan, so Macbeth can take the Scottish throne for himself.

Macbeth      No Fear Shakespeare Macbeth      Macbeth the Graphic Novel

First Witch:     When shall we three meet again?  In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch:  When the hurlyburly's done, When the battle's lost and won.
Third Witch:    That will be ere the set of sun.
                                                             ~Macbeth, Act I, Scene I

The three witches figure prominently in Macbeth, with their chilling and thrilling foretelling and incantations. So important are the witches to the play, that at the 2016 Stratford production, I noticed that the stage there is covered with moss and rocks, instead of being presented as a castle. This is a natural setting for the witches, and all of the characters in the play are so enmeshed in the supernatural that the Toronto Star noted that, "...the characters never really leave the witches' territory in the woods." If you are, as I am, interested in stage designs, Toronto Reference Library’s Special Collections in the Arts has the largest stage design collection in any Canadian public library.

In Witches & Jesuits, Pulitzer Prize-winning Garry Wills argues that Macbeth was written in the context of the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the English monarchy and Parliament. Wills also states that Shakespeare believed the Jesuits had backed the treason, and the playwright also intended the witches to serve as a demonic presence throughout Macbeth. For more about Shakespeare, try Toronto Public Library's recommended websites.                      

I find the play Macbeth to be especially fascinating, since it is supposedly cursed!  Backstage at the theatre, the word "Macbeth" is not mentioned, and "The Scottish Play" has been used as a substitute name. Macbeth was first performed at Shakespeare's
original Globe Theatre in London in 1611. The reconstructed Globe Theatre is on the south bank of the River Thames, not far from where the original theatre stood. The Globe Theatre will be presenting Macbeth until October 1, 2016 in this special year, which marks 400 years since Shakespeare's death.

Closer to home, have fun reading Shakespeare aloud with Shakespeare Readers at Toronto Public Library's Beaches branch; try English Country Dancing (danced during Shakespeare's time) at Locke branch on October 1, 2016 or venture outdoors to High Park for a pay-what-you-can Shakespearean performance by Canadian Stage of Hamlet or All's Well That Ends Well.

Witches & Jesuits Shakespeare's Macbeth       Break a Leg!       Shakespeare's Globe

Macbeth has been recently captured on film with Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. The Toronto Star described them in the film as, "Two of the world's finest actors, they make a magnetic pair." Director Roman Polanski's controversial Macbeth is a particularly violent and graphic version, and director Akira Kurosawa transposes Macbeth to feudal Japan.

DVD Macbeth Michael Fassbender      DVD Macbeth Jon Finch       DVD Throne of Blood

"Write Like You Mean It" and You Might be the Next Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

July 27, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

Do you want to write like JK Rowling?

If yes, then you should join writer Kristyn Dunnion who is leading a series of four free creative writing workshops for teens aged 12-19:

  • Write Like You Mean It  Thur. Aug 11, 2016 | 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm  Toronto Reference Library 
    Get serious about the craft! Uncover what motivates you to write and explore the ideas, places and themes you just have to write about. This session is a great way to learn about your untapped potential, and a solid foundation that will keep you writing and learning. 
  • Create Fascinating Characters Sat. Aug 13, 2016 | 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm  Toronto Reference Library 
    Create believable, fascinating characters that will bring your writing to life. This interactive workshop for young artists will introduce writing tools and hone a variety of creative skills. Suitable for any discipline that involves character work, like novels, short stories, creating video games or playwriting.
  • Bring Your Characters to Life Thu. Aug 18, 2016 | 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Toronto Reference Library 
    Explore character development through writing, movement and dramatic arts-based activities for artists of all disciplines -- acting, writing and more.
  • Create intricate, compelling and multi-dimensional settings for stories and novels. This workshop is especially suitable for writers interested in science fiction, fantasy, or any other type of story that takes place in unusual or intense settings.


No registration, just drop in! Ages 12-19, Free! Check out all workshops in this series. Attend one, or attend them all.

See here for more information about Kristyn Dunnion.

Kristyn Dunnion


Toronto Public Library has also produced a great free list of books and websites to help teens become writers -- you can download it here: The Write Resources for Creative Youth 2014 Tips for Teens who Want to Write and Get Published. 

The Write Resources for Creative Youth Tips for Teens who Want to Write and Get Published

We are also offering the Young Voices Writers Conference in October 2016.

Young voices only

2016 Young Voices Writers Conference

Saturday, October 22, 2016
9:30 am to 4 pm
North York Central Library
5120 Yonge St. (at the North York Centre subway stop)
FREE! Ages 12-19
 Bring your FREE TICKET with you to the Conference!


And, if you are interested in reading the latest JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we have 227 copies on order -- lots of people waiting already but add yourself to the list.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two


Ursula Franklin RIP: "Peace is not the absence of war but the absence of fear"

July 23, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (4)

Ursula Franklin, Quaker, feminist, pacifist, anit-war, Holocaust survivor, ground breaking scientist and writer has just died. I know Ursula and her husband Fred from the Quakers Toronto Monthly Meeting (The Religious Society of Friends). Hearing Ursula's ministry in Meeting was a great gift. Although a renowned scientist and academic (the first woman hired by University of Toronto's Faculty of Engineering in 1967 as a professor of metallurgy and materials science) her ministry was more often about Christian faith and social justice. She spoke in a slow, emphatic, slightly accented and moving manner. She was both rational and spiritual. Her husband Fred spoke less often, but his work with both jails and refugees was also inspirational and grounded in Quaker witness and his ministry. It was a privilege to know them both.

The Ursula Franklin reader: pacifism as a map Feminist, educator, Quaker, and physicist, Ursula Franklin has long been considered one of Canada's foremost advocates and practitioners of pacifism. The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map is a comprehensive collection of her work, and demonstrates subtle, yet critical, linkages across a range of subjects: the pursuit of peace and social justice, theology, feminism, environmental protection, education, government, and citizen activism. This thoughtful collection, drawn from more than four decades of research and teaching, brings readers into an intimate discussion with Franklin, and makes a passionate case for how to build a society centered around peace.

The Ursula Franklin Reader


Ursula was part of the vibrant Canadian feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. She was active in the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Toronto District School Board has even named one of its most successful focus schools specializing in liberal arts and science after her, the Ursula Franklin Academy.  You can read about the many facets of Ursula's life through her rich legacy of writings:                

Ursula Franklin speaks  thoughts and afterthoughts 1986 - 2012  As a distinguished scientist, pacifist, and feminist, Ursula Franklin has been regularly invited by diverse groups to share her insights into the social and political impacts of science and technology. This collection contains twenty-two of Franklin's speeches and five interviews from 1986 to 2012 that have been retrieved and restored from audio and visual recordings with the help of her collaborator, Jane Freeman. These speeches and interviews, available here in print for the first time, stress the increased need for discernment and principled dialogue among Canadians. Although civic life for many Canadians has changed drastically in the past five decades, the basic principles of building and maintaining peaceful communities remain unchanged. Addressing practices of education, research, and civic life, Franklin looks to the past as well as the future to suggest collective ways of cultivating discernment and of advancing human betterment. As a whole, the collection reveals the evolution of Franklin's perspective: a perspective that is further elaborated in her afterthoughts that form the book's introduction and conclusion. Although her speeches and interviews are often critical of the status quo, Ursula Franklin Speaks is a fundamentally optimistic book, grounded in the conviction of the human capacity for compassion and understanding.

    Ursula Franklin Speaks: thoughts and afterthoughts 1986-2012                



The real world of technology Ursula Franklin Massey Lecture In this expanded edition of her bestselling 1989 CBC Massey Lectures, renowned Canadian scientist and humanitarian Ursula M. Franklin examines the impact of technology upon our lives and addresses the extraordinary changes in the bit sphere since The Real World of Technology was first published. In four new chapters, Franklin tackles contentious issues, such as the dilution of privacy and intellectual property rights, the impact of the current technology on government and governance, the shift from consumer capitalism to investment capitalism, and the influence of the Internet upon the craft of writing.

 Her Massey lecture, The Real World of Technology, touched more on her scientific and technology interests.





You may also enjoy this lengthy interview from the Atlantic Monthly.

From Ursula Franklin's obituary there is this quotation:

In Ursula's honour, consider small acts that will make the world and our society a better place. Ursula was a proponent of "the earthworm theory"- it is the little acts that prepare the soil and nurture the seedlings so that bigger actions can follow and flourish. 




Toronto Music Festivals -- What You Missed and Still to Come

July 13, 2016 | Charlene Lee | Comments (1)

With summer well underway, this also means the start of this year's music festival season! With some major festivals already behind us, there is still lots of great music to look forward to in the coming months. Toronto Public Library can be your one stop shop for preparing for the festivals ahead, catching up on those you missed, or reliving and relishing that perfect set. 

Bestival, Toronto - 2015
Photo courtesy of Bestival


With its sophomore appearance in Toronto (originally from England), Bestival did not disappoint. With an eclectic mix of bands and DJs, there was definitely something for everyone. Festival highlights include sets from Tame Impala, Odesza and Jamie xx, who began his set with a more laid back, sombre tone. The mood was gradually lifted with Drake’s “One Dance” as well as a mixture of 90s dance, R&B and samba. Although euphoric track “Gosh” was interrupted by technical difficulties and Jamie xx walking off stage, the issues were quickly amended and he returned to finish his set.


CBC Music Festival

The 3rd annual CBC Music Festival featured a solid lineup of some of Canada’s best and if you’re like me, you sorely regret that you missed it. With a diverse lineup, fans of all genres from pop to rock and indie to hip hop were delighted. There was much buzz around Toronto band Alvvays, who have garnered a strong following with their 2014 self-titled debut album. Other sets that were not to be missed included those from The New Pornographers, Newmarket’s Tokyo Police Club and Hey Rosetta!, whose performances are nothing short of magic. This year they performed “Ahead by a Century” to commend The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Next year’s festival surely won’t disappoint!


TIME Festival

TIME is returning to historic Fort York on Saturday, August 6, 2016. Now in its third year, this one-day festival has always featured a lineup a little bit off the beaten track. Headlining this year is NYC-based hip-hop duo Run The Jewels. They’ll be joined by Joey Bada$$, New Zealand’s dreamy-synth pop sibling duo Broods, and Vancouver-based indie electronic duo Bob Moses.

Bob Moses released Days Gone By last September, delivering a blend of deep house and live instrumentation, and it is near perfection. Highlight “Tearing Me Up” is a song about lust and infidelity, with groovy basslines and skittering percussion. With intricate lines evolving on piano and guitar, and delicate percussive elements, this is an album that you can enjoy peripherally or under a microscope. 

Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$  Broods - Blue Neighbourhood  Broods - Evergreen  Bob Moses - Days Gone By

Check out all the ways TPL can meet your listening needs! With a library card you can access our growing CD collection, as well these great online services: 

Eid Mubarak عيد مبارك: Celebrating the End of Ramadan (with cookies)

July 8, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (1)

The end of Ramadan (and fasting) is celebrated by Eid-al-Fitr, a three day festival that began on Wednesday. One of my Muslim colleagues brought in a box of delicious cookies, Egyptian kahk, and we were talking about food and culture and sharing. She said at the end of the Ramadan and fasting the appetite needs to be whetted again and special cookies and sweets are a great way to encourage that. 

Eid ul Fitr

Some common traditional greetings at this time include "Eid Mubarak" (Blessed Eid) or "Eid Saeed" (Happy Eid). There are many variations though, as the Muslim community is spread along many cultures, countries and languages.

I share a workroom with a diverse bunch of staff so we also enjoy Christmas cookies, traditional Pączki (polish donuts) at the beginning of Lent and other secular treats. We eat a lot of food - not to mention chips.


If you or your kids are interested in learning about Ramadan or Eid-al-Fitr, Toronto Public Library has some great picture books including "It's Ramadan, Curious George":

 Rashad's Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr:  For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayer, and thinking of others. Rashad tries to be good all month. When it's time for Eid al-Fitr, he feasts and plays! Find out how people celebrate this special time of year.    Fasting and Dates A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story: A typical Muslim family celebrates the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  It is the time of year for parents and older children to fast, give special praise to God, and be charitable to the poor and needy. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr occurs on the day following the last day of Ramadan. Families welcome this festival with an elaborate meal attended by extended family and friends. Traditional foods are eaten, including dates and pomegranates.

  Ramadan: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims across the world observe daytime fasting for a whole month. It is believed that it was during this month that the first verses from the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan ends with Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the most important festivals in the Islamic religion. The practices observed throughout this holy month are detailed in a simple and informative manner.    Ramadan (On my Own Holidays) An introduction to Islamic observances during the month of Ramadan and the subsequent festival of Eid-al-Fitr.    Ramadan and Id al-Fitr: Read about the beginnings of the Ramadan and Id al-Fitr celebrations

As well as food, henna decoration is also very popular:

A helping hand: Nozhat Choudry Rao; second from right; applies henna stain to friends' hands as they get a head start on the three-day Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Using henna is a traditional ritual; Nozhat says.  Toronto Star Archive photograph

Henna stain to friend's hands is part of the three-day Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Toronto Star Archives photo 1997


The Library has many books on henna or mehndi which is common during this celebration (and many others too).

Henna from Head to Toe  Body Decorating Hair Coloring Medicinal Uses: Celebrate the amazing versatility of henna! Body decoration using dyes made from natural henna has never been more popular and this book offers complete instructions, recipes, and designs for henna skin art. Readers will also find recipes


If you are interested in Middle Eastern or Muslim food more generally these titles may whet your appetite:

Sirocco  fabulous flavors from the Middle East  Sweet Middle East  classic recipes, from baklava to fig ice cream  

  Heavenly Bites The Best of Muslim Home Cooking    The New Book of Middle Eastern Food In this updated and greatly enlarged edition of her Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden re-creates a classic. The book was originally published here in 1972 and was hailed by James Beard as "a landmark in the field of cookery"; this new version represents the accumulation of the author's thirty years of further extensive travel throughout the ever-changing landscape of the Middle East, gathering recipes and stories.


But the roots of Ramadan are religious and in addition to breaking fast, visiting family, getting new clothes, giving small gifts of money to children, eating sweets and the other things associated with Eid-al-Fitr one goes to mosque and gives Zakat (small alms giving to the poor). You may also enjoy this article from Al Jazeera by Egyptian writer Khaled Diab on Eid al-Fitr: Spiritual oasis or consumer paradise?


Moslems celebrate end of Ramadan Metro's Moslem community Toronto Star Archives photo 1987

"Moslems celebrate end of Ramadan: Metro's Moslem community, which numbers over 100,000, celebrate Eid al-Fitr yesterday marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the holiest of Moslem celebrations. Religious ceremonies were held in several locations across Metro, including the International Centre in Mississauga, above, where thousands of the faithful bowed in prayer as part of the ancient tradition". Toronto Star Archives photo 1987.


Celebrating Pride 2016 with LGBTQ DVDs: Toronto Public Library Supports the Rainbow Couch Potato

June 27, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (18)

You likely know Toronto Public Library has a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Collection at the Yorkville Branch including books, magazines and DVDs. LGBT materials can also be found at all 100 TPL branches or brought to your local branch via our holds system. TPL annually compiles a recommended reading list and offers programs city wide, including a Pride Family StorytimeShe Writes, A Proud Voice Event and youth programs.

Yorkville Branch Wrapped in Rainbow for World Pride 2014

 Yorkville Branch (2014) Toronto Public Library front columns wrapped in rainbows


For many years in the 1990s and early 2000s the Library had a table at Pride where myself and many others gamely, albeit somewhat naively, tried to give out book lists and promote the collection. But, as more than one person said ..."Do you see pockets on this outfit?"

Subsequently, Toronto Public Library, the staff Pride Alliance and our union Local CUPE 4948 started marching together in the parade. This was not just more fun, but our bookmobile and witty pun based signage proved a hit.


Toronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride MarchToronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride March


Twoaussiesincanada wordpress 2013 Toronto Public Library march in Pride Parade

Toronto Public Library and CUPE Local 4948 march in Pride Parade 2013. copyright Two Aussies in Canada blog


And, in a mildly nerdish way, we even have a YouTube video from 2013 showing the TPL bookmobile as our "float". We're at minute 1.00 and going forward. We've had 74 views so far, so we're no threat to Madonna (hi Ab).



So, following the parade, the party and the after party etc we would like to suggest you go to your local library branch (there are 100 locations) or bookmobile stop and borrow some of the following DVDs (recommended by various Library staff and in no particular order - yes that is shockingly cavalier and random). Then sit yourself down on your couch, put your feet up for a well deserved rest and some enjoyable viewing.


Brenda recommended Cloudburst with Olympia Dukakis as a sweet, funny and raucous lesbian road trip movie. If you're interested in true life stories of what life used to be like for lesbians in Canada in the 1950s / 60s you may also enjoy Forbidden love the unashamed stories of lesbian lives. I'm also reminded of Ruthie and Connie about two Jewish lesbians who leave their husbands and go on to fight for marriage rights in the New York City.

Cloudburst DVD

Cloudbust: "Stella and Dot have been together for 31 years and have faithfully accompanied one another through life's ups and downs. Now in their seventies, Stella is hard of hearing and Dot is legally blind. Dotty's prudish granddaughter, Molly, decides the best place for Dot is a nursing home that will provide all the necessities. This forces Stella and Dot to make a bold decision: they will leave their hometown in Maine and make their way to Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal."


And speaking of older lesbians the following DVD really takes us back into history with The Oldest Lesbian in the World.

The Oldest Lesbian in the World DVDThe Oldest Lesbian in the World: "Nearing 100 years old, a national treasure, Bobby Staff whimsically exposes a rare and revealing insight into the romantic life of a butch lesbian born in 1913. Accompanied by her long time friend, Sweet Baby J'ai, Bobbie takes us on a trip down a very steamy memory lane, through photographs and vivid memories of many decades living her life as an out lesbian in New York City and Los Angeles."


Something a bit edgier comes from MK who suggested filmmaker Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. I recall seeing Araki's The Living End in 1992 when it came to the Carelton Cinema in the midst of the AIDS crisis. A sort of gay Thelma & Louise (funny how any road trip movie is now Thelma & Louise like - but this one really is) it also involves a homicide, and two HIV positive gay lovers on the lam. It's a powerful F-you to the world in a wildly funny subversive way.

 Mysterious Skin DVD  The Living End DVD

Sephora suggested the lesbian romance When Night is Falling pointing out the lesbian lovers are not punished at the end for their love. She also liked the light comedy Jeffrey including actor Patrick Stewart from Star Trek. 

When Night is Falling DVD


Ab highly recommends Loose Cannons an Italian, English sub titled comedy that opened the Toronto Lesbian Gay Film Festival in 2011 about two brothers who both come out in a traditional /Italian family.

Loose Cannons DVD



A couple of staff, including Jennifer, recommended Tomboy. While neither gay or lesbian it does speak to the fluidity of gender roles especially among the young and the risks of gender non conformity. The documentary Growing Up Trans looks at the struggles (and joys) of transgender kids and their parents. There are many more DVDs on gender identity that you can also explore at the Library.  For an interesting take on fluid gender you might also enjoy Tilda Swinton in Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

Tomboy DVD

Tomboy: "Laure is 10 years old and a tomboy. On arrival in a new neighbourhood, she lets Lisa and her crowd believe that she is a boy. Summer becomes a big playground and Laure pretends to be Michael, a boy like the others, different enough to get the attention of Lisa, who falls in love with him. Laure takes advantage of her new identity as if the end of the summer would never reveal her unsettling secret."


Transamerica DVD  Patrick 1.5 DVD

Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, portrays a conservative transsexual who unexpectedly finds out she has a teenage son. In Patrik 1.5 a gay couple who think they are adopting a baby find themselves with a sullen, homophobic 15 year old teenage boy.



The "ex gay" movement comedy satire But I'm a Cheerleader also got a nod.

But I'm a Cheerleader DVD


Irene liked Dutch film Antonia's Line won the 1996 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the TIFF People's Choice award. Set in rural Holland post WW2 it portrays rural life with as seen through "pink" coloured glasses.  

Antonia's Line


And Amanda B. spoke highly of film maker Deepa Mehta's Fire, Earth and Water


More and more gay and lesbian films are making into the mainstream. Both cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain (with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) and 1950s New York Carol (with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) are so well known they really need no introduction.

  Brokeback Mountain DVD  Carol


At the cottage last year I watched Last Summer which was an unexpectedly sweet film about two teenagers in love in small town USA. This elegiac movie looks at their relationship not going through the angst of being gay, but rather the angst of one leaving town for university and one staying. The cinematography is especially beautiful.  My husband Richard wanted to recommend Do I Sound Gay, which includes the very funny Margaret Cho.

Last Summer DVD


More gritty and cutting edge, and not just for being filmed on a iPhone 5s smartphone, Tangerine follows transexual Sin-Dee searching for her cheating pimp fiance boyfriend. This is an eye opening film about love, friendship, prostitution, being in the closet, being out of the closet and the colors of Los Angeles. Not for the faint of heart.



If you're looking for a bit of history you might like this documentary and also this feature on Harvey Milk.

  The Times of Harvey Milk DVD documentary  Milk DVD feature film


To know one's history is to know one's roots:

  Before Stonewall The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community DVD   Coming out Under Fire WW2 DVD   Paragraph 175 DVD Historian Klaus Müller interviews survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals because of the German Penal Code of 1871, Paragraph 175.

 We Were Here the AIDS years in San Francisco DVD: David Weissman's We Were Here revisits the San Francisco of the 80s and 90s, using the city's experience with AIDS to open up a conversation about both the history of the epidemic and the lessons to be learned from it. Yet the film reaches far beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself as it illuminates the power of a community that comes together with love, compassion, and determination.   Stonewall Uprising DVD Explores the dramatic event that launched a worldwide rights movement. When police raided a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.

And for some more specific lesbian herstory:

Forbidden Love the Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives DVD: Interviews with 10 women who paint a portrait of lesbian sexuality and survival in Canada during the 1950s and 1960s against a backdrop of tabloid headlines, book covers and dramatizations from lesbian pulp novels.

  Lesbiana a Parallel Revolution DVD   "A parallel revolution was born out of the feminist movement of the 1970's, coming to an end around 1995. Filmmaker Myriam Fougère takes us on a journey to meet the lesbian writers, philosophers and activists who were key players in creating a revolutionary sisterhood. From Montréal to Texas, by way of New York, Myriam encounters lesbians who chose to live only among women. This marginal yet international movement is brought to life through archival footage and photographs, and evocative interviews with these courageous women, many of whom are now in their seventies and eighties.   Paris was a Woman DVD Through a combination of still photos, archival film footage, and interview commentary, documents the creative community of French, English and American women, many of whom were lesbians, who gravitated to the Left Bank in Paris during the early part of the 20th century.


And though invisibility, oppression, bias and even hate are often the foundation of our history and to varying degrees our present, some communities face additional challenges based on race or religion:


Tongues United DVD In an experimental amalgam of rap music, street poetry, documentary film, and dance, a gay African-American man expresses what it is like to be gay and black in the United States.    Brother Outsider the life of Bayard Rustin DVD A documentary examining the life of Bayard Rustin, one of the first "freedom riders," an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph, and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin was forced to play a background role in landmark civil rights events because he was homosexual. This feature-length portrait unfolds both chronologically and thematically, using interviews with others, and Rustin's own voice, taken from his writings, papers, correspondence, and recorded interviews.



Audre Lorde The Berlin Years DVD : Audre Lorde's incisive, often-angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the US-American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and Women-of-Color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Audre Lorde, the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992, documents an untold chapter of Lorde's life: her influence on the German political and cultural scene during a decade of profound social change. The film explores the importance of Lorde's legacy, as she encouraged Afro-Germans -- who, at that time, had no name or space for themselves -- to make themselves visible within a culture that until then had kept them isolated and silent. It chronicles Lorde's empowerment of Afro-German women to write and to publish, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. Previously unreleased archive material as well as present-day interviews explore the lasting influence of Lorde's ideas on Germany and the impact of her work and personality. For the first time, Dagmar Schultz's personal archival video- and audio-recordings reveal a significant part of the private Audre Lorde as well as her agenda -- to rouse Afro-Germans to recognize each other. 2012 marks the 20-year anniversary of Audre Lorde's passing.

  The Same Difference DVD Nneka Onuorah, Black Lesbian film maker, shines a light on the all-too-often ignored problem of homophobia and gender discrimination within the black lesbian community. Onuorah's fascinating and original documentary examines what happens when lesbians discriminate against each other over violations of the strict code that separates butches from femmes. The film examines how these behaviors reproduce the homophobic oppression and masculine privilege of the straight world, while looking for solutions in compelling discussions with community members. Self-identified studs - and the women who love them - discuss hypocrisy in terms of gender roles, performative expectations, and the silent disciplining that occurs within the community. [...] The Same Difference highlights relationships and experiences within the queer female community, intersecting race, gender and sexuality"
The Same Difference DVD by director Nneka Onuorah



Trembling Before G-d



A Jihad for Love DVD: Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world's second largest and fastest growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims. Produced by Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and Sharma, A Jihad for Love was filmed in 12 countries and 9 languages and comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, it reclaims the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, whose true meaning is akin to 'an inner struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God' - allowing its remarkable subjects to move beyond the narrow concept of Jihad as holy war.


This is just a sample of what we have in Toronto Public Library. Not all feature films come with subject headings so it's difficult to pull a complete list together. But if you're interested in further material, you could try these two searches:

The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic, music and cultural works in the library and Toronto.