This weekend leads us into July, and Independence Day celebrations will be aplenty! While all branches of the Delaware County District Library will be closed Sunday and Monday for the holiday, we’ll still be out and about in the community. Look for the annual appearance of the Book Cart Brigade going through downtown Ostrander during its Independence Day parade. The “drill team” always has a fun time and shows off their coordinated moves.
Another celebration that is recognized in the month of July that you may not know about is Muslim-American Heritage Month. States, counties, and local municipalities across the United States celebrate and honor the contributions and integral role of Muslim Americans in the economy, culture, and identity of the United States.
For several years now, a local patron to the Delaware County District Library has offered a program to teens in the area called “The Art of Henna.” Delaware County resident Renuka Bhatt invites teens to casually drop in during the program to have a special henna design drawn on their hand while Renuka shares how and why henna body art is used around the world.
As explained by the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention (IJHSSI), henna is one of the oldest cosmetic ingredients in the world and can be traced with written records as far back as 2,500 years. It’s an important part of Islam as it is used in various events, especially weddings, with the leaves used to dye finger nails, make drawings or decorations on the palms and soles of the feet, and dye hair. The use of henna has also been adopted by Hindus and Buddhists, with the use of henna for decorations spreading to most parts of the Muslim world and India.
Come and visit with Renuka on Wednesday, July 6, at 4 p.m. in the Orange Branch Library Teen Zone, and on Thursday, July 14, at 2 p.m. in the Delaware Main Library Community Room. Each program lasts 90 minutes, and teens are welcome to stop in at any point during the session. No reservations are required. We’re excited to have the community learn a bit more about our nextdoor neighbors as well as our global neighbors.
This week, let’s take a look at some of the biographies and memoirs of the religious communities from around the world that you may have missed.
“The Spiritual Mandela: Faith and Religion in the Life of Nelson Mandela” by Dennis Cruywagen. A richly detailed and thought-provoking exploration of Nelson Mandela’s spiritual life and the relationship between his religious experiences and his politics. This story shows a personal, relatably human side of a revered figure searching for meaning just like the rest of us.
“If All the Seas Were Ink” by Ilana Kurshan. A reflective and engaging description of author Ilana Kurshan’s experiences with daf yomi, a multi-year commitment to daily Talmud study, and how it serves as a grounding ritual during chaotic times. Explore the moving portrait Kurshan paints of belonging to a worldwide network of fellow readers who read the same page every day. For the unfamiliar, each new daf yomi cycle takes more than seven years to complete, with the next cycle set to begin on June 8, 2027.
“Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim” by Leah Vernon. The moving and candid memoir of social media influencer Leah Vernon, where she reflects on her relationship with her Muslim identity and the ways it intersects with self-image, self-expression, racism, sexism, and trauma. You’ll find it has a comfortable, conversational tone alongside a unique perspective Vernon provides at the intersections of her multitude of identities.
“Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem” by George Prochnik. A compelling reappraisal of the life and work of Jewish philosopher and historian Gershom Scholem, who is best known for pioneering the academic study of kabbalah in a secular context. Author George Prochnik displays a deep appreciation for the philosophical and personal reflections that can be drawn from engaging with Scholem’s work, and does not hesitate to explore them in the context of his own relationship with Judaism.
“The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever” by Jamie Wright. The ups and downs of author Jamie Wright’s efforts to reconcile her individual Christian faith with institutional problems that can surround organized religion, especially around missionary work. Her topics include how missionary presence can disrupt local economies; financial irregularities in fundraising; manipulative recruitment tactics to encourage conversions. Readers who welcome tough conversations about the gaps between their relationships with God and the structural obstacles that prevent many faith communities from practicing what they preach may reach for this title.