Boxing Day 2023

my ever-present past

in process

Boxing Day 2023 was intriguing.

The doorbell rang around 7:30 a.m. It was a guy from the City of Albany’s Department of General Services. He and his colleagues would trim the branches from the trees in the neighborhood. A branch of our neighbor’s tree was leaning heavily on the power lines in front of our house.

Were any of the cars on your side of the street ours? No, our car was across the street. Even though I’m car blind – I don’t recognize vehicles well – I could identify our next-door neighbor’s from an item he placed in front of the car so people were less likely to run into it while parking.

They spent over an hour trimming one tree. It had a lot of problematic branches, and they had to cut them into smaller parts. Then they put those branches in in the mulcher.

I suspect they picked that week to do our street because there is an elementary school on the block, and many teachers park on the street. Too many people grumble about government employees, but I was quite pleased with these.

Book review intro

I stopped at the bank to get cash. I had to wait because a bank employee showed a young woman how to use the ATM. 

Then, I took the bus to the Albany Public Library’s Washington Avenue branch to meet the author, Michael Sinclair. He has written a series of 1920s mysteries centered in Albany or Schenectady, NY.  

Interestingly, his presentation was much more about Albany’s history, complete with many photos, and less about the books.

My past converges

After the talk, I talked to a reference librarian who’s often at the desk when I’m there on Tuesday afternoons. Michael Sinclair thanked her for some technical assistance, mentioned that he had graduated from UAlbany’s library school in 2003 and that the APL librarian had attended a decade earlier. 

I asked her, “When did you graduate?” “1992.” I graduated in 1992. She asked who I knew from there then.  I mentioned two future NY SBDC colleagues and my ex-wife. “She was married to this guy who was in the program.” I shook my head and said, “That was ME!” 

Okay, so that was weird. Then she said, “And you used to go out with” this woman I dated off-and-on from 1978 to 1983. How did she know THAT? She used to work for said girlfriend at her office at UAlbany, and I would go there occasionally. So the librarian and I used to talk 40 years ago! She said I had a big ‘fro at the time; I didn’t think so, but it was an occasionally scruffy mess.


As I’m standing at the reference desk, we hear one person yelling at another. And it got weird. I won’t talk much about it here because no great harm occurred, though it was unsettling to the library staff and me. Oh, and I was wearing a Santa hat at the time. The police arrived after one of the two had departed. 

I went home, and then my wife and I went to the movies, which I wrote about separately.  

How was YOUR Boxing Day 2023? Mine didn’t involve boxing, but it came close.

The library asks, in three parts

Managing Chronic Illness

African American Freedom JourneyI have three library asks today for you folks in the Capital District of New York State.

Please join us for a meeting to discuss the future of the Tuesday Book Talks that have been taking place at noon at the Washington Avenue branch for many years. The conversation, taking place on MONDAY, MARCH 13 AT 5 PM at the WASHINGTON AVE AUDITORIUM will address questions about the venue, the time of day, and how to promote the events better. More details can be found here.

We’re looking for speakers for May and June. Those events WILL take place at the usual time noted above. We want authors to talk about their books, or speakers who wish to review other people’s books.  Contact me at this post or by Facebook or email.

Upcoming talks

Feel free to promote these events on your social media.

March 7 | Author Talk | Frank S. Robinson, JD, discusses and reads from his book, The American Crisis: Chronicling and Confronting the Trump Shitstorm.

March 14 | Book Review | Milkweed Smithereens by Bernadette Mayer.  Reviewer:  Bob Sharkey, poet & member of the board, Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

March 21 | Book Review | Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum by Edward T. O’Donnell.  Reviewer:  Joseph Krausman, poet & long-time member of the Friends of APL.

March 28 | Book Review | African American Freedom Journey in New York and Related Sites, 1823-1870: Freedom Knows No Color by Harry Bradshaw Matthews.  Reviewer:  Roger Green, MLS, retired librarian, NY Small Business Development Center, & board member, FFAPL.

April 4 | Book Review | A Song Flung Up to Heaven by Maya Angelou.  Reviewer:  Donald “The Soul Man” Hyman, teacher, actor, singer, writer, TV host/producer, & veteran.

April 11 | A tribute to the late poet Charles Simic, who published over 60 books, won the Pulitzer Prize, & was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, by Gene Damm of FFAPL.

April 18 | Author Talk | Patricia A. Fennell, MSW, LCSW-R, scientist & clinician, discusses her book, Managing Chronic Illness Using the Four-Phase Treatment Approach: A Mental Health Professional’s Guide to Helping Chronically Ill People.

April 25 | Book Review | Number One Is Walking:  My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions, a graphic autobiography by Steve Martin & Cartoonist Harry Bliss.  Reviewer:  John Rowen, former president, Friends of APL.

Yes, that’s me in the March 28 slot. And yes, it’s the same presentation I gave at my church earlier this month.

While I’d like you to attend all of the talks, I will specifically plug my friend Patricia on April 18. And my buddy Donald on April 4 is always entertaining

How Can I Participate in Library Advocacy Day?

Share YOUR story!

libraryLibrary Advocacy Day in New York State is February 28th, 2023.

The New York Library Association (NYLA) has a game plan for participating.

You can:

  • Attend an In-person OR Virtual Legislative Office Visit with your fellow #LibraryAdvocates.
  • Be a Social Media Advocate. Learn more about how to get involved in social media advocacy in the “Leverage Your Network” Section.
  • Send a Letter/Email to your Elected Officials. Not social media savvy? No worries. NYLA has both letter and email templates for you to customize and send to your elected officials.
  • Share Your Story. Tell everyone about how #nylibraries have been important to your communities on social media! Use the hashtags #LAD23, #LibraryAdvocate, and #nylibraries to tell your story. NYLA will retweet/reshare your post throughout the day!
  • Submit a Video for NYLA’s “I Am A #LibraryAdvocate” Campaign. NYLA is asking #LibraryAdvocates to share via video why #nylibraries are important to you! “Whether you are a seasoned library advocate or this is your first Library Advocacy Day – NYLA wants to hear from you. These videos will be shared via NYLA’s social media channel.”

Locally, the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL) is looking for people to table in February on Tuesdays at Washington Ave or another day at another branch based on your availability.

And if you’re not from New York State, I’m sure there are similar activities in your area.

Libraries under attack

Here are some articles that NYLA has recently posted.

Polarizing and Isolating Americans is Good Business for Media Monopolies
The Real News Network

America’s Public Libraries Reflect the Systematic Failures and Social Inequality of Our Country
Electric Lit

School Librarians Are in the Crosshairs of Right-Wing Book Banners and Censors

What Book Bans Are Doing to School Library Purchases
Education Week

October 2022 book reviews

Jon Rice on October 25

In another hyper-local post, here’s the list of October 2022 book reviews, offered by the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library.

October 4 | Book Review | Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. Reviewer: Carl Strock, author & prize-winning journalist.

October 11 |Book Review | Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. Reviewer: Gene Damm, former president, Friends of APL.

October 18 | Book Review | Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and OEndings by Alan Lightman. Reviewer: David Guistina, WAMC.

October 25 | Book Review | No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. Reviewer: Jon S. Rice, MSW, LCSW-R, Albany Health Management Associates, Inc.

Book reviews or author talks are offered every Tuesday at noon at the Washington Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY.

I post this to inform you that you are welcome to attend these events. Recently, in this not-quite-post-COVID period, coffee and snacks are being offered again.

The pitch

But my ulterior motive is to offer YOU the opportunity to participate in a more substantial level. If you’re going to be in the area and would like to provide a book review, please let me know and we can work on that. I’ve conned, I mean persuaded my friend Jon Rice to give a talk on October 25.

Or, if you are a writer of books, you could give an author talk. Holly Planells McKenna was the President of the Albany Public Library Foundation from 2012 until 2020 and was the first president of the combined Friends and Foundation of Albany Public Library. In September 2022, she gave an author talk about her book Across the River Jordan: The Journey to Bring My Son Home.

We are generally scheduling these events for three months out so that they make it onto the Albany Public Library calendar. If you’re interested in doing a book review or author talk, contact me via email or Messenger on Facebook.

How To Be An Antiracist

book review, of a sort

How To Be An AntiracistRecently, I did what was billed as a book review of How To Be An Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi. I’m not sure it was a review as much as a reflection of how much I related to it.

That said, if I were to suggest a review, the pull quote by James Forman, Jr., author of Locking Up Our Own and son of a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader in the 1960s, would suffice. “Ibram Kendi uses his own life journey to show why becoming an antiracist is as essential as it is difficult. Equal parts memoir, history, and social commentary, this book is honest, brave, and most of all liberating.”

It is particularly honest when it comes to Kendi himself. The first section of the book is My Racist Introduction. He still has “nightmares” about a speech he gave at a competition on MLK Day 2000 at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, VA. “A racist culture had handed me the ammunition to shoot Black people to shoot myself… Internalized racism is the real Black on Black crime.”

Check out this page of terms by Kendi. Note the assimilationist ideas that try to “fix” people. This is an attitude for which Pope Francis went to Canada to apologize to the First Nations people. The church had said their language, their garb, and even their hair was “wrong.” Compare this with the segregationist ideas that “suggest that a racial group is permanently inferior.”

You might be surprised by the number of times people have told me, “Race is just a social construct.” Yes, I know, but it “doesn’t lessen its force.” Kendi cites Carl Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae (1735). His role in the origins of scientific racism was huge.


Like me, Kendi is not a fan of one trendy term. As he notes, “microaggression is used because, in a ‘post-racial’ era, this term replaces ‘racism’ which went out of fashion. Racism has become the R-word like the N-word is used for the word it replaced.”

I’ve written about the curse of Canaan. Kendi explains English travel writer George Best’s role in this myth. “Proof did not matter when biological racial difference could be created by misreading the Bible.”

“Assimilationists believe the post-racial myth that talking about race constitutes racism.” I’ve heard similar talk from segregationists who fear the evil Critical Race Theory will harm innocent children. The former group “fails to realize that if we stop using categories, then we will not be able to identify racist policies.” This is why I, as a Census enumerator in 1990 and 2020, as well as a librarian, continue to support the racial categories, especially since they’ve allowed for more than one selection since 1997.

The issue of colorism is an odd history. While some enslavers believed a body was better the Whiter it is, others felt “Dark people more perfect than the so-called human mule, or mulatto. I wrote about racial categories.

What got Malcolm X killed was the idea that Kendi states, that Black people can be racist toward White people. I was always bothered by the talk from the Nation of Islam about the “White devils.” “To be antiracist is… knowing there are antiracist Whites and racist non-Whites.”

“When Dinesh D’Souza writes, ‘the behavior of the African American underclass… flagrantly violates basic codes of responsibility, decency, and civility,’ he is deploying class racism.”


Kendi opines, and I believe correctly about individualizing an error in White spaces but generalizing the error in the Black space instead of the individual. “How many times did I have a bad experience at a Black business and then walk away complaining not the individuals involved but Black businesses as a whole?”

Also, “whenever Black people voluntarily gather among themselves, integrationists… see spaces of White hate.” In the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (1997/2017), “One reason students from similar racial backgrounds may gather together is that “connecting with peers who are having a similar experience as your own serves as a buffer, as a protective force…”

Kendi: “I became a Black patriarch because my parents and the world around me did not strictly raise me to be a Black feminist.” Certainly, black women experience misogynoir.

At a Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library Literary Legends gala a few years ago, I talked to Barbara Smith, a co-founder of Combahee River Collective. I asked if she knew my mother’s first cousin, Frances Beal. Yes, indeed she did. Both are mentioned on page 187 of the book. “Frances Beal… audaciously proclaimed in 1968, ‘the black woman in America can justly be described a ‘slave of a slave.””

I could go on, but this will give you a feel for the book. It is very readable and quite relatable, as he explains his foibles while trying to be an antiracist.

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