Skreslet, Paula Youngman
Skreslet, Paula Youngman
Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, VA, reference and archives librarian.
Northern Africa: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, Libraries Unlimited (Englewood, CO), 2000.
(With daughter, Rebecca Skreslet) The Literature of Islam: A Guide to the Primary Sources in English Translation, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2006.
Paula Youngman Skreslet lived in Cairo for ten years, working as a librarian and teacher during her time there. Her experience made her well qualified to write her first book, Northern Africa: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources. This book is intended for use by novice researchers who need an introduction to the information resources available on North Africa. For the purposes of this book, Northern Africa is defined as including the regions of Maghreb, Sahel, and Horn. Northern Africa has more than fifty pages of indexes to help users quickly access its information. It includes critical information on reference works in four languages—French, German, English, and transliterated Arabic—related to the subject of North Africa. The focus is on work published during the 1980s and 1990s, but some resources from earlier decades are also included. The variety of works referenced is great, ranging from electronic material to travel guides to microforms. The author not only lists sources, but also provides detailed annotations about those sources, their scope, and their limitations. These "thoughtful and substantial" comments on the part of Skreslet make Northern Africa "relevant, nuanced, and eminently useful," according to an H-Africa review by Daniel A. Reboussin.
Skreslet continued in a similar vein with her next book, The Literature of Islam: A Guide to the Primary Sources in English Translation. It was compiled with her daughter, Rebecca Skreslet, an Arabic studies scholar. In The Literature of Islam, the Skreslets present works available in English on the subject of Islam. Academic interest in Islam has been on the rise, yet until recently, there were relatively few English translations of scholarly works written in Arabic, Turkish, or Persian. With increasing interest have come more translations, and the Skreslets' guide is intended to help researchers who do not read Arabic to find the best resources available to them. Their intended audience is not the experts who are able to read Islamic works in their original languages, but rather those who have a basic knowledge of the history, beliefs, and cultural forms of Islam and who are trying to deepen their knowledge.
The book is organized into sections on the Koran and exegesis of it, traditions of Islam, history, legal theory and law, theology, spirituality, and philosophy. Works cited range from those written in the medieval period to some from the twentieth century; the significance of the originals is explained, and the translations are reviewed. The first chapter of the book reviews the many translations of the Koran and points out the ways that cultural prejudices led some translators to try to correct what they perceived as errors or weaknesses in it. In this and other ways, the book "presents a wealth of information about the encounter of Western scholarship with Islam," remarked S.M. Estelle Holmes in Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. The Literature of Islam also includes a glossary, bibliography, multiple indexes, and a pronunciation guide. It is, according to Mogens S. Mogensen in a review for the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, "an indispensable tool for scholars who study and teach Islam but who are not proficient in Arabic." Holmes also recommended the book strongly, especially for universities, seminarians, and institutions of higher learning. She stated it would be valuable for librarians seeking to build their collections of translations of Islamic works, teachers of introductory courses, or students of religion or history who seek information on English translations of source material. Holmes called it "an accessible guide to an extensive and difficult to access literature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 2001, G. Walsh, review of Northern Africa: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, p. 1251; October, 2007, S.M. Estelle Holmes, review of The Literature of Islam: A Guide to the Primary Sources in English Translation, p. 254.
International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July, 2007, Mogens S. Mogensen, review of The Literature of Islam, p. 164.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2000, review of Northern Africa, p. 195; February, 2007, review of The Literature of Islam.
Teacher Librarian, February, 2001, review of Northern Africa, p. 39.
Greenwood Group Publishing Web site,http://www.greenwood.com/ (January 26, 2008), biographical information about Paula Skreslet.
H-Africa,http://www.h-net.org/ (February, 2003), Daniel A. Reboussin, review of Northern Africa.