20th century

09/19/2012 - 2:31am

The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure.  Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads.  The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.  A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.

07/03/2012 - 8:56am

Image courtesy of Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing, http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

Feel like putting a little free spirit in your summer? Get on your oldest clothes, grab some buckets and rubber gloves, and head for the backyard to create beautiful tie-dye crafts.

You can use natural or artificial dyes, depending on whether you want your design to be a real eye-popper or something subtler that bespeaks being at one with nature. You can use a tie-dye kit or collect wild things from nature for earthier tones. Heck, even unsweetened Kool-Aid can be used as a dye to produce vivid color.

06/27/2012 - 8:47am

You can find them on a map. Barely.  Little towns that used to be rather important hubs dot the Virginia countryside, dating from the days when agriculture ruled along with the horse and buggy or mule and wagon. These central spots, often near rail stations, rivers, or better roads, were communities in their own right and many have faded away as the interstate system grew. The Lost Communities of Virginia, by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg, takes a look at these fading places, several of them near our area, including Mineral, Woodford, and Milford.

Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café can relate to little Milford, situated in Caroline County and still located on a railroad line.  Originally the popular area here was Doguetown, named for the Dogue Indians who used the Mattaponi River for transportation. Milford, named for a nearby plantation in 1792, also used the river as a point for shipping—and inspecting—tobacco. The Mattaponi River was connected to both the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1840s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad ran from Richmond to Aquia Creek with a stop in Milford. Milford’s North-South railroad connections made it a target in the Civil War. 

04/23/2012 - 2:30am

The Seventeenth Child, by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne, sets down the memories of a childhood lived in the countryside of 1930s Virginia by a black woman who grew up before the Civil Rights Movement made so many gains.  These remembrances are plain, soft-spoken and ring true to an age that was certainly different from the one we know.  In some ways, it was a harder time as in her earliest years even basic food was very hard to come by and the sharecropping system made it difficult for all farmers, black and white, to get ahead or even stay afloat during the bad harvest years.

But it was the warmth of family, faith, shared hardship and simple joys that made those days good as well as difficult. The children worked, not only because their help was needed but because it was understood that working was a good thing in and of itself. They helped pull and tend tobacco, can vegetables, sew quilts, raise chickens, and shell corn.  Lucille Payne tells of how hard it was to earn money. How sometimes her mother might not be paid much more than fifty cents for a hard day’s washing of filthy clothes in a dark and cold shed. Well, fifty cents and a hambone that might not be fit to eat without it being scrubbed, too, and sometimes not even then. But her mother said, “Well, you accept what they give you; next time it might be better.”

It wasn’t all about acceptance. Sometimes Lucille would see her mother spit in the water while she washed and she would ask her why she did that. “That helps to get them clean.”  But I know she was just so angry because she had to survive.  When you have so many children you have to survive the best way you can.  Likewise, when white children rode the bus to their segregated school, leaving the black children to walk and even calling them names, the black children got a bit of revenge…and a chance to be better than their so-called betters with an act of charity.

04/18/2012 - 11:42am

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 19, with a lecture on Anne Frank by Sid Jacobson, co-author of Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography.

Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and the authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón created the first authorized and exhaustive graphic biography of Anne Frank.

More than simply poignant, this biography elucidates the complex emotional aspects of living a sequestered adolescence as a brilliant, budding writer. Naturally, this book has significant appeal for teens as well as adults.” - Booklist. 

Sid Jacobson was formerly the managing editor and editor in chief for Harvey Comics, and an executive editor at Marvel Comics; artist Ernie Colón has worked at Harvey, Marvel, and DC Comics.

Visit the Macmillan web site to watch interviews with authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, and Hans Westra, director of the Anne Frank House.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Anne Frank check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

04/02/2012 - 7:40am

There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.”  It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”

04/02/2012 - 3:00am

Beginning April 2, 2012, the National Archives will provide access to the images of the 1940 U.S. Federal census for the very first time. Unlike previous census years, the images of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be made available as free digital images at http://1940census.archives.gov. Genealogists have waited for this day for years and are eager to get a first look.

03/21/2012 - 2:31am

The Left Bank Gang opens with a dog shuffling down the streets of 1920's Paris, keeping mostly to himself. He ignores a panhandler, but then sees another dog that he recognizes. They shake hands. One dog's name is Ezra Pound. The other's is Ernest Hemingway.

Gang is a clever nugget of alternate history fiction. Rather than focusing on complex geopolitical questions like "What if the Germans won World War II?"  Norwegian cartoonist Jason turns to the zeitgeist of expatriate writers such as Pound, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Hemingway. His hypothesis is "What if all of these starving geniuses just got fed up and turned to crime?"

12/20/2011 - 3:30am

In writing, and in life, it is incredibly difficult to deviate from the paths of least resistance. The established patterns seem so easy and inviting, and it takes amazing willpower and courage to do things a different way. As a writer, Jeffrey Eugenides gracefully avoids clichés and predictability. Both of his previous books, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, are memorable and unnerving. In his latest novel, The Marriage Plot, Eugenides is not alone in his avoidance of formulaic archetypes. The characters themselves are engaged in a meta-struggle to reject obvious and seemingly inexorable fates.

The Marriage Plot follows the intertwined lives of three central characters: Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus, and Leonard Bankhead. The novel opens in 1982, on the chaotic day that is supposed to send the three of them, and the rest of the graduating class, careening into adulthood. The collective mood is characterized by anticipation: professors have pulled out their dusty robes; parents have loaded new film into their cameras. But things are not as simple or inspiring for the young people who are supposed to leave the university’s protective cloister and fend for themselves in an uncertain world. 

11/22/2011 - 3:30am

What would you do if your daughters ran away? Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, is the true story of a mother who lost two of her daughters to the grunge subculture of the 1990s. They began hating everything about her--not just two teenagers fighting with their mother but a feud. Meanwhile, they totally submerged themselves into depression. Shortly after the girls became obsessed with the movement, Gwartney lost them fully to the streets. This story is a unique account by a mother of her lost relationship with her daughters.