River Forest Public Library is proud to be part of The National Endowment for the Humanities new initiative, Bridging Cultures. The Bridging Cultures initiative intends to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad. The first of these NEH-sponsored bookshelves is called ‘Muslim Journeys’ and is intended to address the American public’s need and desire for reliable resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.
Here’s a sampling of some of the incredible, new titles that are available:
The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance
British-Iraqi physicist Jim Al-Khalili unveils the Arabic scientific legacy to fascinating effect by returning to its roots in the hubs of Arab innovation that would advance science and jump-start the European Renaissance. Many of the innovations that we think of as hallmarks of Western science were actually the result of Arab ingenuity: Astronomers laid the foundations for the heliocentric model of the solar system long before Copernicus; physicians accurately described blood circulation and the inner workings of the eye ages before Europeans solved those mysteries; physicists made discoveries that laid the foundation for Newton’s theories of optics. But the most significant legacy of Middle Eastern science was its evidence-based approach–the lack of which kept Europeans in the dark throughout the Dark Ages.
“I was born in a harem in 1940 in Fez, Morocco…” So begins Fatima Mernissi in the exotic and rich narrative of a childhood behind the iron gates of a domestic harem. In Dreams of Trespass, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surrounded her in the courtyard of her youth–women who, deprived of access to the world outside, recreated it from sheer imagination.
In Cairo in the 1940s, Leila Ahmed was raised by a generation of women who never dressed in the veils and headscarves their mothers and grandmothers had worn. To them, these coverings seemed irrelevant to both modern life and Islamic piety. Today, however, the majority of Muslim women throughout the Islamic world again wear the veil. Why, Ahmed asks, did this change take root so swiftly, and what does this shift mean for women, Islam, and the West? Richly insightful, intricately drawn, and passionately argued, this absorbing story of the veil’s resurgence, from Egypt through Saudi Arabia and into the West, suggests a dramatically new portrait of contemporary Islam.
In an Antique Land
In an Antique Land is a subversive history in the guise of a traveller’s tale. When the author stumbles across a slave narrative in the margins of an ancient text, his curiosity is piqued. What follows is a ten year search, which brings author and slave together across 800 hundred years of colonial history. Bursting with anecdote and exuberant detail, it offers a magical, intimate biography of the private life of a country, Egypt, from the Crusades to Operation Desert Storm.
There are 25 books in the Muslim Journeys collection as well as 3 DVDs. We will also be hosting two programs centered around the Muslim experience–The Heart of Islam (Wed, September 18, 7 PM) and Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World (Thu, September 26, 1PM). Call (708-366-5205) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions!