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Sometimes we like to write about happenings or news or stuff that, while only loosely within our authority, give off a certain – say – profundity. It’s part of our all-around service to bring these to your discerning attention.

Meeting Rex, the new UEA American Scholar

Hello everyone! I’m excited for the opportunity to introduce myself and look forward to getting to know more of you, both in person and through this blog. I have been at the American Library about three months and have loved meeting patrons and exploring the unique memorial and impressive collection so far.

A little background information on myself now: I grew up mostly in the western United States, in Seattle and Salt Lake City, though I also have lived in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and Virginia for various amounts of time. I have also lived in a few other countries including Chile, Italy, and now, the UK.

Educationally, my background is in Economics, Chemistry, Medicine, Comparative Literature and Creative Writing. I attended the MA in Creative Writing at UEA in 2020 and am now pursuing the PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. I had a great experience in Norwich and I am happy to be here again.

My PhD project is an excerpt from a novel and critical component investigating the novel as knowledge and creative writing’s place within academia. I am passionate about writing and love all sorts of writers from various backgrounds. I am always happy to talk about books, so feel free to chat with me about your favorite writers and novels, short stories and poetry!

In my free time, I love to play basketball, noodle on the guitar, lift, draw and cook. I am excited to share some (hopefully) interesting posts on the blog and to meet as many of you as possible in person. Until then!

Rex

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A Night at the Movies: Horror Noire Screening with AML

This week AML hosted a screening of the documentary Horror Noire featuring Professor Robin R Means Coleman whose book of the same title inspired the film. Horror Noire details the history and impact of Black American representation and involvement in the horror movie genre. Actors, directors, writers, and academics spoke in the film about how blackness functions in horror films, in particular in response to racism throughout American history. The film included clips of famous Black horror films including Blacula, Get Out, and Candyman to showcase how different eras of horror films represented blackness. After the viewing, Professor Means Coleman answered questions from the audience and continued the discussions that were raised during the film.

While not a scholar of film (as well as a bona fide scaredy-cat who watches most horror films with my eyes shut) I found this documentary extremely entertaining. I was most interested to learn about how Black representation in horror films evolved from the 1940s through to present day. Speakers in the film discussed how early representations of blackness in horror relied on racist, negative depictions of Black Americans from the era of enslavement and Jim Crowe laws in the United States. A turning point came in the 1960s and 1970s when more films featuring Black actors as monster and victim were made. Later in the 1990s and 2000s horror films finally depicted Black characters as the hero of the film who is able to survive or perhaps even defeat the monster.

One aspect of the film that was interesting to see was how horror could be used to represent political issues in the United States related to race. These films could reflect the real-life horrors that Black Americans have faced in a way that was entertaining and offered an escape from the news stories of how people of color in the US were being treated. In this way, the horror genre could be used as an outlet for Black creators of film and actors to present those real-life fears in a method that is separate from reality.

After the viewing, Professor Means Coleman answered audience questions about the horror genre, Black representation, and what the future of horror noire may be. Audiences were particularly interested in the films of Jordan Peele, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his 2017 horror film Get Out. As one of the most recent successes in Black horror filmmaking, Peele’s movies had fans in the audience who were interested in discussion how he uses nuance and contemporary discussions around race, technology, and politics to develop his narratives.

Overall, the film screening was a great event. Horror Noire was both entertaining and informative. To have Professor Means Coleman available to answer our questions and further our understanding of the film was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about this genre and where it might be headed in the future.

Horror Noire is produced by Shudder Films. You can find it on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video. The book that inspired the film, also called Horror Noire, by Professor Robin R Means Coleman is available on Amazon or at the American Library.

Post by American Scholar Lauren Cortese

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Summertime Favourite Throughout History

As we continue to slog through the warm summer weather, I got to thinking about my recent trip back to the US and the news coverage of President Joe Biden’s well known favourite snack all year long: ice cream. Biden is such a fan that an Ohio based ice cream company developed a flavour in his honour using all of his favourite flavours and toppings.

But Biden isn’t the first US President to be known for his love of this cool sweet treat. The first record of ice cream in the United States was from 1744 in a letter written by a guest of the Governor of Maryland (which happens to be my home state). George Washington was noted to have spent at least $200 USD in one summer on ice cream, which comes out to about $5000 USD today! Thomas Jefferson had his own preferred ice cream recipe and first lady Dolly Madison served strawberry ice cream at the second inauguration of her husband James Madison.

American’s love of ice cream continued into the 19th century with the invention of the soda fountain and ice cream sundae. The 1904 World’s Fair introduced the ice cream cone for enjoying a scoop on the go, which was then further mobilised with the first ice cream trucks in the 1920s out of Youngstown, Ohio. During the Prohibition Years when alcohol was illegal, some major beer breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling began to produce ice cream to maintain their profits.

Ice cream then became such an integral part of American life that it served as a source of comfort. During World War I, ice cream was sent to troops stationed overseas not only as a food that was dense in calories and fat to maintain nutrition, but as a reminder of home. When the Great Depression struck, ice cream became a morale boosting treat as it was still relatively low priced and offered a luxury among simpler meals.

Once again, in World War II, ice cream played a significant role in improving morale for soldiers. It is reported that bomber crews would make ice cream while carrying out missions. They could put together the ingredients for ice cream in a bucket, strap the bucket to the rear gunners compartment, and while flying the mixture would be blended by the vibrations and turbulence of the aircraft and frozen at the high altitude. Then, in 1945, the US Navy created an ice cream barge that towed around the South Pacific to distribute ice cream to the troops. The US Army took a different approach with miniature ice cream factories stationed around the front lines so ice cream could be delivered to foxholes. It seems that ingenuity was a helpful tool serve the troops a small taste of home during harrowing times.

Now as we start to prepare for the cooler autumn weather, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy a treat that has been enjoyed around the world for centuries, but has a special place in the history of our World War II servicemen and servicewomen.

If you’d like to read more on this topic, below are links to the sites I used to research this post:

Post by American Scholar Lauren Cortese

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American Library Relaunch Soiree

This week the American Library hosted its official relaunch two years after the refurbishment project that transformed our library. We were lucky to have been joined by supporters of the library both in person in Norwich and virtually via a live stream.

Richard Middleton provides opening remarks.

To open our event, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton welcomed guests to the Forum and the American Library. He was joined by speakers Councillor Margaret Dewsbury and Colonel Charles Metrolis. Councillor Dewsbury is the Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and spoke to the rich history of the American influence in Norwich that began during World War II. She spoke fondly of her grandparents’ memories of the American GIs who spent time in Norfolk. Colonel Metrolis is the Air Attache to the United States Embassy and spent time during his service in the UK. He shared an appreciation for the special relationship that has long existed between the United States and the United Kingdom that the American Library showcases everyday.

A highlight of the event was the speeches given by three WWII veterans who served here in Norwich in the 2nd Air Division. Each veteran was able to attend the event virtually from their homes in the United States. We were so lucky to hear from these brave men who have such a strong history with Norwich.

Guests were met by virtual attendees, three 2nd Air Division Veterans: Earl Wassom, Allan Hallett and Bob Birmingham.

To close out the event, guests were invited to visit the refurbished American Library. Here they could see the WWII memorial, plane models, and the large collection of books by American writers that are available to the public. Visitors viewed the Roll of Honor, listing the names of the nearly 7,000 American personnel from the 2nd Air Division who were based in East Anglia during World War II and were killed in action. They could also see B-24 bombers, assembly ships and fighter models with information about the particular bomber or fighter group on display.

Visitors at the American Library. From left: Sheriff of Norwich Caroline Jarrold, Air Attache to the US Embassy Col. Charles Metrolis, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton, NCC Vice Chairperson Councillor Graham Plant, NCC Cabinet Member for Communities Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly.
Guests in the memorial section of the library.
Guests review the Roll of Honor in the library.

Overall, the event was a great success that brought together veterans, academics, American supporters, and locals from Norwich who represented the various groups that made this library memorial possible. It was wonderful to see the reach that the American Library has had for so many through the years and how that impact will continue with the new library. It was also a special opportunity for the Library Scholars to see the 2nd AD community in action and in person, which we thoroughly enjoyed. But nothing could top the unique 21st century moment of hearing and seeing our wonderful veterans address the gathering from across the pond and across the years.

Post by Lauren Cortese and Suzanne Solomon

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