Reference Book of the Week: Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature

March is Women’s History Month, so we continue highlighting some reference items related to women and women’s studies on the blog this month. This week we are looking at the Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature. This is an A to Z guide to feminist literature. Entries cover important feminist writers such as Aphra Behn, Jane Austen, Anaïs Nin, Sandra Cisnerors, and more much more. It also covers influential works, literary theories, motifs, issues, philosophical and literary developments, sources, women’s history, literary history, genres, themes, characters, and literary conventions.

The work is arranged in more than 500 entries in alphabetical order. It draws on the expertise of a diverse group of scholars. In addition, topics are drawn from “a close examination of the syllabi of women’s studies, literature, and social issues classes, as well as the contents of current textbooks, supplemental reading lists, and notable projects and seminars that have drawn together teachers, students, writers, activists, and authorities on feminist concerns” (vii).

Each entry includes a short bibliography for further reading. Entries also include cross-references (indicated by names in full caps in an entry). In addition to the entries, the volume also features:

  • An introductory essay for the volume that provides an overview of feminist literature and writers.
  • A list of authors by genre. For example, get a list of feminist writers who write drama.
  • A list of major feminist authors and their works.
  • A timeline of major works in feminist literature.
  • A primary sources bibliography listing print works and electronic texts.
  • A secondary sources bibliography for works about the writers and feminist literature.
  • A small list of relevant films.
  • An index, where boldfaced terms indicate main entries.

For students in literary studies, classes with literature elements, and WGS (women and gender studies), this can be a volume of interest. Whether you need to find a specific term or idea, such as “letter writing,” look up an author like Amy Tan, or get a quick overview of a work, say Life in the Iron Mills, this is the book for you. If you are starting to do research on feminist literature, fiction or nonfiction, this is book is an excellent starting point.

You can find it in the library’s Second Floor Reference Collection under the call number R 809.892 S673e 2006.



Reference Book of the Week: Women in Developing Countries

March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting some reference items related to women and women’s studies on the blog. This week I am featuring Women in Developing Countries: A Reference Handbook (link to library catalog). This is part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary World Issues series. The books in this series are designed, according to the publisher, to provide accurate, unbiased information on major topics. Books in this series are designed to be good research starting points for students, scholars, general readers, activists, legislators, and others.

“The purpose of the book is to provide a survey of the literature and other resources on the topic of women in developing countries and to provide sources for further research” (xv).

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Preface gives readers a brief description of the book’s scope and content.
  • The book includes a lists of developing countries; this helps define the book’s scope.
  • Chapter 1 provides background and historical information. Basic concepts are defined and discussed. We get a look at women’s status and experiences around the world, in a broad way, covering topics such as education, health care, and employment.
  • Chapter 2 goes over important specific issues and controversies.
  • Chapter 3 focuses on issues of concern in the United States.
  • Chapter 4 provides a chronology of key events in recent history of women in developing countries.
  • Chapter 5 offers a set of biographical sketches. These are short biographies of women who have played major roles in areas related to the subject ranging from politics to social activism and from local and international figures.
  • Chapter 6 is the statistics and data chapter. It also includes some texts and summaries of relevant U.N. conventions.
  • Chapter 7 is a listing of organizations, mostly NGO’s, government agencies, and government-affiliated organizations.
  • Note that Chapters 1-6 do include a list of references, which researchers can find useful for further reading.
  • Chapter 8 is an annotated bibliography of books and other materials related to women in developing countries.
  • There is also a glossary of terms, and the book includes an alphabetical index.

Students doing research on women’s issues, in the U.S. and abroad, with an interest in developing countries will find the book useful. The book provides an overview of topics, and it helps the reader find ways to expand research. In addition, as other reference books do, this book provides vocabulary, which can be used then in article database searching. Finally, students can use the bibliography to find additional sources of information. This is overall a nice volume that packs a lot of value and information for the researcher needing a starting point on this topic.

The book is located in the 2nd Floor Reference Collection of the library under call number 305.409 K557w 2011.

Reference Book of the Week: Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography

Welcome to a new edition of our semi-regular feature in our blog: Reference Book of the Week. Here at Hutchins Library we have an excellent reference collection. It is a great resource for students, faculty, and staff. We use this series of posts to highlight specific items in our reference collection, telling our readers what the item does and how it can be used for your research needs.

Cover Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese BiographyThis week we are featuring a new item of interest to students and scholars in Asian Studies as well as world history, politics, and biography: The Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography (the link goes to the book’s record in BANC, our library catalog). This three-volume set is designed for general readers seeking a working knowledge of Chinese history through its key figures.

The set features three volumes. Entries in the dictionary cover emperors, politicians, poets, writers, artists, scientists, explorers, philosophers, and others. The dictionary features 135 long biographies that range from 1,000 to 8,000 words in length. Entries are written by scholars fro China as well as from Europe, America, and Australia. The three volumes cover from the beginnings of Chinese history to 1979, the year when China resumed diplomatic relations with the United States. A forthcoming fourth volume will bring coverage to the present day. The publisher states that this work is inspired by the Dictionary of National Biography to provide access to information similar to that set about Chinese persons. The publisher speaks further on the set’s coverage:

“. . . we have tried to strike a balance between the obvious figures who cannot be left out of any overview of Chinese history, and lesser known individuals, whose life and achievements can nonetheless provide insight into China’s development” (xxviii).

Each entry features the following components:

  • The person’s name. (Right now, the volumes do not feature any living persons. In the forthcoming fourth volume, some living individuals will be featured. This is another way in which this set is different than the Dictionary of National Biography).
  • The time and dates the person lived and a brief statement of what they did.
  • Alternate name(s), if the person had any.
  • A summary paragraph.
  • The full entry essay.
  • The set overall contains various illustrations. When available, there is at least a portrait of the person. Images come from various sources.
  • A list of items for further reading.

How can you make use of this resource?

  • The volumes are organized chronologically by dynasty or historical period. Within each period, articles are mostly alphabetical (there are some exceptions).
  • Each volume has a complete list of entries for the specific volume and the set.
  • The first volume contains an introduction, the publisher’s note, and a reader’s guide that gives further guidance on how to best use this set for research and learning.
  • The third volume has a names index to help you find all the figures mentioned in the volume. If a person has a full entry in the dictionary, his or her name would be listed in bold letters.
  • The set features helpful indices, a timeline, and a glossary.

As of this post, the set is being featured in the library display honoring the 15th Anniversary of Asian Studies at Berea College. It is a reference book, so it may not be checked out, but you can use it inside the library. After the display, the set will return to the second floor Reference Collection. You can find it under the call number REF 951.003 B5125 2014.

Reference Book of the Week: Women in Combat

March is Women’s History Month, so we are featuring a reference book about women in our semi-regular feature Reference Book of the Week. Women in Combat: A Reference Handbook is part of the Contemporary World Issues series published by ABC-CLIO. This series covers topics such as animal rights, lobbying in the U.S., environmental justice, and women in combat, which is our highlight this month. This series provides a good starting point for research in the topics the series covers. You can start your research with a book like Women in Combat and then move on to more in-depth tools such as article databases.

Women in Combat features eight chapters filled with good information. Some of the chapter topics include:

  • Background information and history of women in war and combat.
  • Problems, controversies, and solutions related to women in combat roles. Issues such as women’s physical abilities, effect on readiness, and societal expectations are discussed here.
  • A selection of primary documents and statistics.
  • A chapter on print and nonprint sources featuring books, journals, hearings, and Internet sites, and more.

This is an easy to use and read reference book. It is well organized, and it features a good index to help you find any specific terms or information of interest. The role of women in combat is a topic that comes and goes in the news cycle as women continue to fight for equality in and out of the battlefield. This book is a good resource to get a better understanding of this topic, plus it provides good guidance for further research and exploration.

You can find the book in the library’s reference collection. The call number is R 355.408 S626w 2011.

Reference Book of the Week: African American Religious Cultures

We continue celebrating Black History Month in our semi-regular series of Reference Book of the Week. This week we look at African Americans and religion in the two-volume set African American Religious Cultures (R 200.899 A2575 2009). This set, edited by Anthony B. Pinn, takes a look not only at the United States, but the American continents. The introduction states that this work is “concerned with the religious worlds of African Americans– the wide-ranging and complex communities of people of African descent who populate the hemisphere” (xxx). Whether you want to learn about the experience of African Americans in organized religions or their experiences in other spiritual paths, this is a good resource for you.

The set is organized as follows:

  • An introduction that provides a good context on African American religious cultures. The introduction discusses how African Americans came to the New World, the experience of slavery, and how their religious traditions have evolved over time in the Americas. The introduction does feature a very good bibliography for further reading.
  • A set of entries in alphabetical order. Topics such African Americans in various mainstream churches (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, etc.) as well as other religious traditions are discussed. The entries run from A (African American mysticism) to R (Rastafari) in the first volume and from S (Santeria) to X (Xango) in the second volume. According to the introduction, this first part of the encyclopedia is “concerned with a sense of religion by means of attention to particular traditions. . . ” (xxxi). Each entry has a bibliography so readers can expand their research on these topics.
  • The second volume also includes a set of essays on larger topics, a chronology of events, and an appendix containing a selection of primary documents. Do note that the essays focus mainly on North America because “it is assumed most users of this encyclopedia are situated in North America, particularly in the United States” (xxxi). However, the essays should be valuable to any reader anywhere in the world.

Overall, this is a basic encyclopedia designed to give readers some solid background information on the religious cultures of African Americans. After using this resource, readers should be able to to do more in-depth reading. One way to do that is by using the bibliographies provided throughout the encyclopedia and locate items cited. For books cited in the encyclopedia, readers here in Berea College can use BANC (our library catalog) to look up any book. For articles cited in the encyclopedia, you can search our Full Text Journals tool to see if we own a particular journal containing the article. If you are a reader at a different college or community, your local library probably has a library catalog and a tool similar to our Full Text Journals tool to help expand your search. At any rate, any time you need assistance, near or far, you can contact our reference desk.

African American Religious Cultures is available in the second floor of Hutchins Library, in the reference section. Just use the call number provided above to find it.

Reference Book of the Week: Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History

Welcome to our opening edition of a new semi-regular feature in our blog: Reference Book of the Week. Here at Hutchins Library we have an excellent reference collection. It is a great resource for students, faculty, and staff. We will use this series of posts to highlight specific items in our reference collection, telling our readers what the item does and how it can be used for your research needs.

February is Black History Month. In honor of the observance, we are featuring the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas (REF 973.049 E625 2006). The first edition of this six volume set came out in 1996; the second edition, which the library has, came out in 2006. When the first edition came out ,the editors and writers of this encyclopedia sought to provide readers with accurate knowledge of African American history, a field of study that was long neglected up to the middle of the twentieth century. The encyclopedia features biographical entries of African Americans; there are no entries for figures such as FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, nor Wole Soyinka. The goal for biographical entries was to look at achievements and contributions of African Americans. In addition, the encyclopedia does include various various entries on events, historical periods, legal cases, culture, sports, and geography. The set also features illustrations and photographs as well as appendices with various lists for things like economic data, lists, and other tables.

Entries are arranged in alphabetical order. To make the best use of this set, you want to get the last volume of the set and look in the index to see if your topic is covered. You may find that your topic has an entry, but you may also notice that topics may be mentioned in other entries. For example, Colson Whitehead has an entry on pages 2290-2291, but he is also mentioned in other entries on pages 1311 and 1332. The set does provide cross-references, so once you locate an entry, you will get additional suggestions of other entries to look at that are related to the topic of interest. Using cross-references is an easy way to expand your research on a topic. Plus, like all good reference works, each entry provides a small bibliography of works related to an entry so you can expand your research that way as well. The last volume of the set also contains the appendices with various additional materials such as primary source documents and other data.

The second edition of the encyclopedia, which is the one we have in the reference collection as of this writing, expanded the set from five to six volumes and provided a substantial revision. The editors did remove some entries, updated others, and added some new entries. It now does provide some coverage of figures outside the United States for instance in places like the Caribbean and Latin America, a reflection of the diverse times we live in.

If you are interested in African American history, and/or you are writing a paper on African-American topics, this is an excellent resource to get you some background information and some possible citations to expand your research.

The library, in addition to the print edition, also has an electronic (e-book) edition of this resource. Do note that this is a subscription-based resource, so if you are trying to access it from outside of the Berea College network, you will need to provide your Berea online credentials (username and password). The print version of this work is located in the second floor of the library in the Reference Collection.