Grace Aguilar's American Journey: A Common Core-aligned Research Experience for Grades 11-12
Annotation:Nonfiction, printed portrait. From the NYPL digital collections, this portrait was widely disseminated across the British Empire, Europe, and the US. Idealized femininity and intellectual character merge in the face of a young author who would be dead at age 31.
Annotation:Poetry. Aguilar's interpretation of Hagar and Ishmael's exile and danger in the wilderness is a metaphor for the vulnerable and dispossessed, Jewish, female, and otherwise. A daring midrash by a woman who, by virtue of her sex, was not initially encouraged to comment on theology. It is also a pro-emancipation document; Hagar was perceived as an African slave in England during this era.
Annotation:Nonfiction, web page. This online biography, from the Jewish Women's Archive, is essential for understanding Aguilar's contributions to literature, liturgy, philosophy, education, and social reform. Her advocacy of women, Jews, and other outsiders in 19th century life was not unique, but was notable and far-sighted. Includes current bibliography.
Annotation:Nonfiction atlas. This Bromley map series was produced the year after the creation of the 116th Street A.F.L.S. Derived from actual surveys and official plans, show the explosive growth of immigrant neighborhoods such as East Harlem by visually describing available housing stock and density, thus making the case for more social and educational services. Even more powerful when used in tandem with census records.
Annotation:Nonfiction, photographs. This selection of images from the A.F.L.S. branches including both incarnations of East 110th Street, designed by Herts and Tallant. For the purposes of this lesson: ttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-8280-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Annotation:Nonfiction. Why is this branch different than all other branches? This 1996 description argues for the Aguilar Library's uniqueness -- and inadvertently argues that every branch of the NYPL is unique in its own way. Corresponds with the library's inclusion in Adopt-A-Branch.
Annotation:The success and non-sectarian work discussed in this article shows the Aguilar F.L.S. to be a true "public" library. Stunning growth one year after the creation of the 110th Street branch.
Annotation:This series chronicles the history of New York City from its beginnings in 1609 as a Dutch trading post, through the depression, onto the turbulent years of change in the following decades after WWII, to its present day status as one of the most important and influencial cities in the world.
Annotation:Non-fiction, periodical. Numbers do not lie, especially these, when taken from library bulletins compiled by the redoubtable Pauline Leipziger, Head Librarian (look for her in the archives, if you can). A public is hungry for books.
Annotation:Nonfiction primary source. Another description of the work of the A.F.L.S. by a most impressed reporter.
Annotation:The NYPL Curriculum Guide to East Harlem, including maps, census records, photographs and manuscripts. Lesson ideas and language helps any teacher shape a unit on any era of the neighborhood's history.
Annotation:C-Span audio/video. Co-authors Annie Polland and Daniel Soyer discuss their book, Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration 1840-1920. Using photographs and first person accounts, they describe in their book how New York City influenced Jewish immigrants, and how the immigrants in turn transformed the city. To excerpt or use in a "flipped" classroom. (1 hour, 10 minutes )
Annotation:Nonfiction. The description and justification for designating the Aguilar Library a historic landmark. Includes photos from the 1990s. Much information on the branch and the A.F.L.S. contained and consolidated.
Annotation:The American Grace Aguilar? This review of Lazarus' mission and importance aligns her explicitly with Grace Aguilar, and the Aguilar Free Library. Each woman will leave her own "monument;" students can explore what they are and their legacies for today.
Annotation:"In 1843, British novelist Grace Aguilar was a household name on both sides of the Atlantic. So how come we’ve never heard of her?" This article, on tabletmag.com, goes far to explaining how the bridge between Aguilar and ourselves was ruptured. In the process, it helps rebuild it.
Annotation:Nonfiction secondary source. An acclaimed history of a group of Americans marginalized in many ways and always worried about survival into the context of America's political, social, and religious life. Relevant to non-Jewish as well as Jewish communities, the themes of evolving cultural and personal identities, assimilation, and revitalization, core in both American history and contemporary American life, go far in explaining why Grace Aguilar was such an important writer and role model for immigrants and their children, Jews and non-Jews.
Annotation:Non-fiction. Evocative images bring the neighborhoods of the patrons and the founders of the Aguilar Free Library Society to life. Walk the streets of yesterday.
Annotation:Non-fiction. Long identified with African-American style and culture, Harlem is also a pillar of New York's social and architectural history. Here, historian Michael Henry Adams presents an evocative portrait of the various and divergent Harlems of yesteryear, from 17th century Native American settlements to the vibrant community of present-day preservationists. In addition to the legacy of residential architecture...the author examines schools, industrial facilities, stores, churches, and more. Harlem's spectrum of designers ranges from the well known to practitioners who, though today mostly forgotten, contributed to an extraordinarily rich streetscape that today preserves the best of Harlem's past.
Annotation:Non-fiction; secondary source. Part 2 of the three part series, Deborah Dash Moore, general editor. Using photographs and first person accounts, the authors describe how New York City influenced Jewish immigrants, and how the immigrants in turn transformed the city. This volume covers the period of time when the Aguilar Free Library Society was created, grew, and was absorbed into the NYPL. It also embraces the earlier arrival of the families who formed and funded it.
Annotation:Primary source image. Evidence of outreach to a literate, Yiddish-speaking population by the Aguilar branch, now part of the NYPL library system. Most useful for those who read Yiddish, but also demonstrates how the branch continues to serve the needs of local patrons.
Annotation:Non-fiction. This speech displays the fund raising and philanthropic tone of the Society. More useful for institutional or social/cultural historians, rather than high school teachers and students.
Annotation:Non-fiction, secondary source. This classic study recounts the experiences of the East European Jews who settled in New York's East Side. As the Aguilar Libraries began on the Lower East Side and many patrons may have lived uptown and downtown at some point, this essential background work remains so.
Annotation:Nonfiction. Primary source (images), secondary source (text). Huge, comprehensive and impossible to put down. It explores the Aguilar Library in both incarnations, paying attention to architectural firm Herts and Tallant, better known for their theater and entertainment designs (BAM, for one).
Annotation:Exhaustively detailed and fascinating, this volume is essential background on the development of East Harlem before World War I, when the Aguilar Library we know today was built.
Annotation:Contextualizing Aguilar's work, this reader also releases many writers who have faded in popularity but not importance, particularly for the scholar of literature and Jewish studies.
Annotation:Non-fiction. The Aguilar Free Library Society became part of the New York Public Library as Gotham became Greater New York. No coincidence. This book helps show how both were able to be woven together. Exhaustive and addictive to teachers; perhaps judiciously excerpted for reluctant student readers.
Annotation:This book, focusing on Western Europe and the US, sheds light on the way that women, in particular, rethought and remade their gender and religious roles in a rapidly modernizing and industrializing society. It contextualizes Aguilar's journey and amplifies her literary voice.
Annotation:Historical fiction; primary source. Grace Aguilar's story of a family of Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition. Of use to scholars and students of Jewish history more than the general reader, it is, nonetheless, a gripping tale written by the daughter of Sephardic immigrants to England.
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These sources and documents focus on three aspects of Aguilar: (1) the woman (2) the Free Library Society and the city it served (3) The child of the A.F.L.S; today's Aguilar branch of the NYPL. Because Aguilar was a prolific writer in several genres, an attempt has been made to include examples of her poetry, essays, and fiction. Students would find brief excerpts more useful, but the opportunity to dig deep always beckons.