Wednesday, November 18, 2015

African American Women of the Old West --by Tricia Marineau Wagner

History / Old West
168 pages
5 Stars

This is an excellent introduction to the contributions African American Women made in the opening of the Old West. Wagner profiles 10 women of indomitable courage who went through whatever it required to get where they wanted to get.

I am a bit disappointed there were no stories of African American women who helped settle the Inland Empire of Oregon, Washington, & Idaho – but that's probably due to the fact there were none. Those who came went on to Portland or Seattle.

I think my favorite character, and she was, indeed, a character was Mary Fields, aka Stagecoach Mary, though it's difficult to pick a favorite.

Ms. Wagner did her research, and told each story with care and attention to detail, without bogging the story down in nothing but facts. This book should be in every history class in every high school in the country. Not just in the class, but taught.

I look forward to reading Wagner's book, It Happened on the Underground Railroad. If I have to find a negative remark about this book, it is only that it was too short. I would like to have read a great deal more about many of these women. Oh, wait, I can do that, can't I? ;-)

If you're a history buff, as I am, I heartily recommend this book. Job well done, Ms. Wagner. Job well done.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon Volumes I & II --by CM Drury

History / Old Oregon

476 pages, Vol I
435 pages, Vol II, including Appendices & Index
5 Stars

If you are a fan of history, especially that of the opening of the Oregon Country to pioneers, I think these books (there are two Volumes) should be at the top of your "must read" list. Drury is the undisputed authority on the Whitmans and the early members of the Oregon Mission Board who came here (the Spaldings, Eells, Walkers). The Rangers at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site use Drury as their authority and bible. I now understand why.

When I picked Volume I up, and began to read, my eyes began to quickly glaze over. It began as a very dense history book. However, by page 3 or so, I was hooked. Yes, it is dense, yes, it is packed with facts and tidbits and many items of interest, and yes I found myself resenting the times I had to put the books down. When I finished Volume I, I immediately picked up Volume II and began reading.

Volume I contains more information about Narcissa, which is what I was after, but Volume II contains more information about the mission in general and Marcus. The primary focus of these two volumes is, of course, Narcissa and Marcus; however, due to the nature of history, many other people entered the narrative from the Rev. Henry H. Spalding, a rejected suitor of Narcissa, the Indians who invited the Missionaries to come and teach them, to the metis, Joe Lewis the primary instigator of the uprising in which the Whitmans and others were killed.

The only complaint I have about the books, and believe me I had to dig to find one, is the quality of the maps and drawings. I know they were copies of the originals, which weren't all that great to begin with, but they were small. It would have been nice had they at least been full page instead of 80% or whatever. Keep a magnifier handy when reading.

Drury was not only an Historian of merit, but also a minister, a terrific author, and he was able to bring the characters not just to life on the page, but to give us insights into their actions, and thinking.

Highly recommend these two books! Also, there are footnotes. Real footnotes. Not those stupid end notes publishers so love ;-)

Every Dress a Decision --by Elizabeth Austen

77 pages
5 Stars

I took a poetry workshop from Ms. Austen, our Washington State Poet Laureate. What a delightful two hours. After, I bought her book, curious to read her work, which was not used in the workshop.

She mentioned some personal life stories during the workshop, and this book tells a little about them. Many people I know read a book of poetry willy-nilly, they enjoy picking up the book and opening it to a poem. I tend to start at the beginning and read to the end. The beginning tells us it is in memory of her brother, who died too young at 37 years of age. I read the first three poems and stopped. The third poem is "What Is Known" – for her brother, Michael – just blew my socks off. She has several poems in this book with the same title, and they are very, very powerful.

This is not a book of lightness and humor; it is a book of delicately written pain, and sorrow. It explores life in all its meanings – and every reader will read their own poems, their own stories, into these words.

While it is not a book of lightness and humor, it is yet filled with light, and touches of humor. These poems will go directly to your heart; they will allow your soul to soar. I read the complete book in a matter of 3 or 4 sittings. I have since gone back to several of the poems to read again, and sometimes yet again, to read, to absorb, to marvel at the beautiful writing, and then to lay aside only to pick it up again and again.