Looking for some suggestions for last minute holiday gifts? Two of our staff members, Andy and Mary, pulled together a quick list of some of their favorites - old and new - that might just suit your needs.
We encourage you to seek these out from a local bookseller, but if you can't find them near home, or time is just too tight, we've provided Amazon affiliate links for you convenience. VFC receives a small percentage of the sale when you purchase using the links below.
Not a comprehensive list by any stretch, but a selection of recent (and classic) books we're excited about, some we've read and some we've just read about.
Annotated African American Folktales edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar
A brand new collection of African and African American folktales compiled by folktale scholar, Maria Tatar and African-American cultural specialist, Henry Louis Gates Jr. I've not read it yet, but based on the reputations of the scholars involved and the in-depth NY Times review (available here) I certainly plan on it. (Andy)
The Book of Greek and Roman Folktales, Legends, and Myths by William Hansen, with illustrations by Glynnis Fawkes.
Wonderful translation and collection of ancient Greek and Roman popular oral stories complied by one of my graduate school professors - with illustrations by Burlington, VT cartoonist, Glynnis Fawkes! Not your standard collection of Classical myths, however - it covers a broad swoop of all kinds of everyday, oral-transmitted narratives: folktales, personal stories, jokes, ancient urban legends and others that demonstrate (among many other things) the tenacity of these types of stories in Western culture. (Andy)
Daisy Turner's Kin: An African American Family Saga by Jane C. Beck
VFC founder Jane Beck first met Daisy Turner in 1983 and went on to record over 80 hours of interviews with her. Daisy's family story is truly epic, encompassing her ancestor's capture and enslavement in West Africa and arrival in North America, her father's escape from slavery during the Civil War, the establishment of her family's farm in Grafton, VT in the years that followed, and Daisy's own long life across the 20th century.
Jane's book follows these stories in depth, relating them to broader African American experience, the history of Vermont, and the fascinating life of Daisy Turner herself. (Andy)
The Last of the Hill Farms: Echoes of Vermont's Past by Richard Brown
In 1968 Vermont photographer Richard Brown took up his 8x10 view camera and engaged with what he saw as the persistence of the past in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. In his newest book Brown revisits the Vermont he first encountered in the late 1960s.
"I was searching for those unique moments – moments that look backward not forward. For the briefest interval, a window is opened and the spirit of Vermont’s past – granite hills cleared and farmed, hard lives lived and lost, struggle and endurance, a harsh land made starkly beautiful by nature and by man – is palpable. In a sixtieth of a second, the blink of an eye, the click of a shutter, the past and the present collide and the image that glows on the ground glass is captured forever in silver."
Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution by Sherine Hamdy, Coleman Nye, Sarula Bao and Caroline Brewer
Most non-fiction comics that explore human experience come from one of three perspectives - history, journalism or memoir. I've long been a proponent of the development of an ethnographic approach to non-fiction cartooning, and Lissa is a welcome sight - the first self-identified ethnographic "graphic novel" to be produced by the University of Toronto Press's new EthnoGRAPHIC imprint.
The story is crafted from ethnographic field research by authors Hamdy and Nye and explores (among other things) how a range of interconnected cultural, social and economic differences inform medical decisions, perspectives on the Egyptian revolution, and the value of the comics form in ethnography. It's a tremendous first footstep and one that will hopefully open the door to similar work down the road. (Andy)
Photographing Montana, 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron by Evelyn Cameron and Donna M. Lucey
Photographing Montana shares Evelyn Cameron's photographs of life in Montana from the 1890s to the 1920s. It's both a compelling visual record of life in the American west at that time, and a fascinating account of her life. The well-researched and thoughtful biographical narrative combined with excerpts from Evelyn's own letters and diaries gives us a glimpse of the singular life she lived - of her many interests, her independence and drive, the challenges she faced, and the ways that her photography fit into her world and the world at that time - a way to make a living, reflect community, allow personal expression, and create a historical record. (Mary)
Superman in Myth and Folklore by Daniel Peretti
I'm a long time comic nerd, and Superman in Myth and Folklore does a brilliant job of drawing together my interests in superheros, folklore and popular culture studies. Folklorist, Dan Peretti (an old grad school buddy) is a breezy writer who has produced fabulous study of the place the character of Superman has come to hold in vernacular culture. It's a terrific book that gets right at the heart of where contemporary folklore resides: the intersection between traditional cultural expression and mass media. Engaging whether you're a superhero/comic nerd or not. (Andy)
Vivian Maier: Street Photographer by Vivian Maier and John Maloof
While working as a nanny in NYC, Vivian Maier took over 100,000 photographs between 1950 and 1990, documenting public life in New York, Chicago, and abroad, but she shared them with no one. A historian stumbled on some of her photos, and has brought them to light in his book Vivian Meier: Street Photographer. The photos are beautiful, intimate, and a powerful historical record in and of themselves. (Mary).
Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere by Hilary Chute
Brand new title from comics scholar Hilary Chute that provides an overview on the history of the medium and delves into the recent explosion of interest in the form. I've not read it yet, but was deeply impressed by her excellent, earlier book, Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form. Why Comics received an in depth review from the NY Times which peaked my interest in it as well--you can find the review here. (Andy)
Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers by Ken Light
A range of perspectives and experiences from working documentary photographers in the 20th century. The essays examine the personal and career struggles of the photographers, as well as the ethical and practical complexities of documentary photography - to what extent does the photographer have the right or responsibility to bear witness, to use their work to effect change? (Mary)
There's been a large growth in storytelling games lately and here are two - one a low impact, beautifully illustrated card game, and one a role playing game (think Dungeons and Dragons) that emphasizes the creation of a collective narrative over slaying monsters and hoarding treasure.
The Hollow Woods: Storytelling Card Game
Striking, picture-based storytelling card game that features stunning art in a very pretty package. Players mix the deck and play cards that, when laid out linearly, create a narrative tableau that can be altered and revised by moving cards or laying new ones. Very cleverly designed so that any cards placed next to another seamlessly connect visually with one another. With imagery rooted in European fairy tales, it is a great game that can be played using the enclosed rules or just improvised. Promised expansions coming this spring! (Andy)
I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and other table top role playing games (RPGs). Over time I gradually became less and less interested in highly structured game mechanics and overly complex rules that threw cold water on my main motivation for playing to begin with: having a focused opportunity to make up fabulous stories with my friends. Enter FATE, an RPG that emphasizes collective, group storytelling over dice rolling and allows players to create their own fabulous worlds and amazing adventures in any setting of their choosing. Gone is the dictatorial Dungeon/Game Master who lords over the table like a rules-ordained deity! In FATE the game master works with players to, above all, facilitate the unfolding of an shared story - one that is still governed by the rules of play and shaped by probability (we're still nerds after all, so there do have to be at least some dice) - but one that emerges first from active collaboration and group world building.
Is it still a nerdy D&D kinda thing? Yeah, it is, and if you can't get passed that I understand. Still, with the streamlined FATE Accelerated rules costing only $5 in print (or as a pay-what-you-will PDF download here) there's not much to lose for checking it out. Now, on the topic of dice, the FATE system does use them - a type of modified standard six-sided dice called "Fudge" or "Fate" dice. You can buy the special dice or just make them yourself with regular dice and a Sharpie, instructions are here.
A FATE game can certainly focus on old RPG standards like swords-and-sorcery, sci-fi or superheros, but it can also go well beyond to include things as far flung as fairy tale characters searching for the three golden hairs of the devil, cranky school bus drivers trying to get through a snowstorm, crusading lawyers, or even stalwart dedicated folklorists and ethnomusicologists racing to complete a grant narrative before a deadline. Don't want to have fighting be a part of your FATE game? You don't have to! FATE really can be a game about anything the players want it to be.
FATE (the Accelerated rules in particular) is also a great game for a parent to play with slightly older kids.