Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Never Caught: the Washingtons’ relentless pursuit of their runaway slave Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

October 23, 2017

[Tricia] Never Caught tells the true story of Ona Judge, one of George and Martha Washington’s slaves who lived and worked in the presidential residence in Philadelphia during much of George Washington’s presidency. Risking absolutely everything for a life of freedom, Ona escaped and, with the help of a network of free blacks in Philadelphia, made her way to Portsmouth, NH. This book offers crucial insights into the day to day lives of enslaved people, the differing attitudes about slavery and abolition among the states during the late 1700s, and the unthinkable risks and costs of escaping slavery. Particularly revealing is George Washington’s attitude toward slavery, and his seeming inability to comprehend why Ona Judge would choose freedom over what he took to be the relatively privileged position of being a slave in the President’s home. He simply couldn’t accept that, as Ona Judge said herself, she would “rather suffer death” than return to slavery. This book offers an important examination of the meaning of freedom.

Advertisements

The Red House, by Sarah Messer

February 18, 2015

[Lesley] The subtitle for this book is: being a mostly accurate account of New England’s oldest continuously lived-in house. It’s another quirky, interesting book/memoir. If I was making a mini-collection of these, this one would go with Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Dogtown. This is the kind of book that I love discovering in the library stacks and why I would never want to be without the eclectic selection at the library (vs. the mainstream/most popular selection at chain bookstores).

Sarah Messer’s family buys the Red House of the title – the first owners not of the original family line. In her quasi-memoir we get the history of the house and some of the people who lived there – in typical fashion, pieced together from stories, rumors, letters, wallpaper, how the house was built/added to, etc. – and the history of two families, one of which Messer is growing up in.

The “characters” are what you would expect of old New Englanders and I loved getting to know each of them. Some of the stories are haunting (like the one about the mother and child and a fire), and some are funny. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

Dogtown, by Elyssa East

January 19, 2014

[Lesley]  I have seen this book going in and out at the library for years and every time I think – “that looks interesting… I should read that.” Well, I finally checked it out and I was right! This is an intriguing book looking at one small area of Cape Ann from historic, artistic, spiritual, true crime, and anthropologic perspectives. The entire book is framed by the author’s own interest in this area, sparked by her admiration for and connection to the paintings of Hartley Marsden that center on the rock formations in Cape Ann’s dogtown. As she searches for an epiphany in her own life she discovers the fascinating history of Dogtown and other “towns” like it as well as more recent events (murder, conservation efforts, and invasive species – plants and people) that become more “proof” of what people already feel and think about the transcendent and dark qualities of this mostly unclaimed piece of earth. A great read – I’m sorry I waited so long to discover it!

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss – Edmund de Waal

January 25, 2011

[Tricia]

I thought this was a really wonderful book. The author explores the history of his family, a rich, powerful Jewish family from Odessa, by tracing the story of their collection of Japanese netsuke from the mid 1800s to the present – moving through high society Paris in the late 1800s, Vienna in the years leading up to the first World War, to 1950s Tokyo. The book is about art and history, but is also a deeply personal family history. I found it fascinating and moving.