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Featured Resources: Discovering Philadelphia

September 11, 2023

This month, as Drexel University welcomes new and returning students to campus, the Drexel Libraries is pleased to feature just a few books, DVDs, and local newspapers that feature the City of Brotherly & Sisterly Love.

We hope these resources will help you get to know – and fall in love with – Philadelphia. Search for these titles and others in DragonSearch, the Drexel Libraries’ catalog, or check out a few of our favorites below.


University City: History, Race, and Community in the Era of the Innovation District
by Laura Wolf-Powers

This book examines the racial politics embedded in the discourses and practices of innovation-centered economic development. Drawing on both archival research and contemporary ethnography in West Philadelphia's neighborhoods, the book unsettles the consensus that inclusive redevelopment policies have decisively superseded harmful, racist ones in twenty-first century cities. The story of University City illustrates equally the dilemmas and contradictions of liberal urban reform in the 1950s and 60s and the vexing challenge of achieving equitable urban development in the present day.

Compete or Close: Traditional Neighborhood Schools Under Pressure
by Julia A. McWilliams

In districts from Chicago to New York to Washington, DC, neighborhood public schools are being forced to compete with charter schools for students and resources, often under the threat of school closure. In "Compete or Close," Julia A. McWilliams provides a compelling ethnographic study of one such school, a neighborhood high school in Philadelphia--a district where rising privatization and chronic underfunding cast these common tensions into sharp relief. The book poses two questions: What strategies do schools deploy to minimize market risk and signal their value to stakeholders--district administrators, funders, parents, and students? And how do these strategies conflict with the schools' mission to serve all children?

The Road to Sanctuary: Building Power and Community in Philadelphia
Editors Amada Armenta, Caitlin Barry & Abel Rodriguez, forward by Mayor Jim Kenney

Philadelphia is a leader in the modern sanctuary movement. This collection of essays and interviews, written by organizers, community leaders, and academics, examine the making of Philadelphia's sanctuary movement from multiple perspectives.

The Roots of Educational Inequality: Philadelphia's Germantown High School, 1907-2014
by Erika M. Kitzmiller

The Roots of Educational Inequality chronicles the transformation of one American high school over the course of the twentieth century to explore the larger political, economic, and social factors that have contributed to the escalation of educational inequality in modern America.

Ethnic Renewal in Philadelphia's Chinatown: Space, Place, and Struggle  
by Kathryn E. Wilson

This book charts the unique history of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a place that began in the late nineteenth century as a refuge for immigrant laborers and merchants in which to form a community. After 1945, a new generation of families began to shape Chinatown’s future. As plans for urban renewal—ranging from a cross-town expressway and commuter rail in the 1960s to a downtown baseball stadium in 2000—were proposed and developed, “Save Chinatown” activists rose up and fought for social justice. This history is particularly relevant in 2023 as developers propose building a basketball arena just steps away from this neighborhood.  

Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia
Editors Paul M. Farber & Ken Lum

What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? That was the question posed by the curators, artists, scholars, and students who comprise the Philadelphia-based public art and history studio Monument Lab. And in 2017, along with Mural Arts Philadelphia, they produced and organized a groundbreaking, city-wide exhibition of temporary, site-specific works that engaged directly with the community. The installations, by a cohort of diverse artists considering issues of identity, appeared in iconic public squares and neighborhood parks with research and learning labs and prototype monuments. Monument Lab is a fabulous compendium of the exhibition and a critical reflection of the proceedings, including contributions from interlocutors and collaborators.

Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid

This Philly-set novel is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young Black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Tuskegee in Philadelphia
by Robert J. Kodosky

At the outbreak of World War II, Philadelphians heeded the call, including the valiant airmen and women of Tuskegee. Although trained in Alabama, the prestigious unit comprised dozens of Philadelphia-area natives, second only to Chicago in the country. They served as fighter pilots, bombers, nurses, and mechanics, as well as in many other support roles. The African American service members had to overcome racism and sexism on the home front in order to serve with great distinction. Their battle for equality didn't end at the war's conclusion. Tuskegee alumni continued to serve their nation by working to secure civil rights and serve their community back home in Philadelphia. Read the book then visit the Mural Arts mural a few blocks away at 16 S. 39th Street.

Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell
by Jane Golden, Robin Rice, Monica Yant Kinney & photographers David Graham and Jack Ramsdale

In this illustrated chronicle of the Mural Arts Program, you will see the murals in all of their beauty and learn about their inspiring legacies in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. Go behind the scenes to find out how murals are made and why the process is as much an art of diplomacy and consensus building as paint and perspective. Discover through pictures and text how murals give communities a new way to define themselves, not in terms of the streets and intersections that border them, but in terms of the people who came together to create something of dramatic beauty. 

Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country's most famous museum of medical oddities. Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools-or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century. Over the course of his career, he amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum. Award-winning writer Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter's efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation.

Space is the Place: The Life & Times of Sun Ra 
by John F. Szwed

Sun Ra, a.k.a. Herman Poole "Sonny" Blount, has been hailed as "one of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz" and as "the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy.” Composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, Sun Ra led his "Intergalactic Arkestra" of thirty-plus musicians in a career that ranged from boogie-woogie and swing to be-bop, free jazz, fusion, and New Age music. This definitive biography reveals the life (including the decades spent living in Philadelphia), philosophy, and musical growth of one of the twentieth century's greatest avant-garde musicians.

The Philly Fan's Code: the 50 Toughest, Craziest, Most Legendary Philadelphia Athletes of the Last 50 Years 
by Mike Tanier

ICYMI: Sports are life here in Philly. Philadelphia athletes are often as tough as their fans are passionate. How else to explain the rabid appeal of the bone-crunching Broad Street Bullies? Chuck Bednarik was one of the looniest tunes in Philadelphia sports history, butfuggedabouthim. The Philly Fan's Code provides fun and opinionated essays that evaluate the 50 greatest, toughest, and most eccentric legends of Philly sports since Concrete Charlie hung up his cleats.

The Philadelphia Reader 
by Robert Huber

Do you love Philadelphia? Do you love good writing? Well, this is the book for you. It's about the people of Philadelphia--the good, the fine, and the imperfect. Yes, the sports heroes are here--Mike Schmidt, Julius ("Dr. J.") Erving. And the politicians—Ed Rendell, John Street. And the moguls--Brian Roberts, Comcast honcho. And the would-be moguls—Mark Yagalla, world-class embezzler. And so many more, including—writing in their own words—Terry Gross, Patti LaBelle, W. Wilson Goode, Sr., Judy Wicks, Judith Rodin, and Smarty Jones (proving that this horse is no one-trick pony). And so many more. The people--and the horse--who have meant something to this city during the last 20 years.

by Tina Fey

From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon, comedian & Philadelphia native Tina Fey reveals all, and proves that you're no one until someone calls you bossy.



Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, is arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), when the undefeated fighter's scheduled opponent is injured. While training with feisty former bantamweight contender Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky tentatively begins a relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire), the wallflower sister of his meat-packer pal Paulie (Burt Young). This is a must-watch for anyone—especially Philly residents. Watch the movie and then head to the Rocky Statue and trek up the 73 “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Philadelphia Story

This comedy of manners revitalized Katharine Hepburn’s career and cemented her status as the era’s most iconic leading lady. The screenplay pits the formidable Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn) against various romantic foils, chief among them her charismatic ex-husband (Cary Grant), who disrupts her imminent marriage by paying her family estate a visit, accompanied by a tabloid reporter on assignment to cover the wedding of the year (James Stewart, in his only Academy Award–winning performance). A fast-talking screwball comedy as well as a tale of regret and reconciliation, this convergence of golden-age talent is considered one of the greatest American films of all time.

Local Newspapers

Philadelphia Business Journal (must be on campus or signed into VPN for access)

The Philadelphia Business Journal features local business news about Philadelphia. We also provide tools to help businesses grow, network and hire. 

Philadelphia Inquirer

Since 1829, The Philadelphia Inquirer has been “asking on behalf of the people” of Philadelphia and the region by providing essential journalism. Locally owned and headquartered in Center City Philadelphia, The Inquirer is a for-profit public benefit corporation under the non-profit Lenfest Institute.

Philadelphia Tribune

With a rich history of growth and advocacy that closely mirrors the nation’s Civil Rights progress, The Philadelphia Tribune is the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper reflecting the African American experience.