In traditional biographies of the Washingtons, the subject of slavery rarely comes up, or, if it does, it is given a paragraph or perhaps a chapter to explain the “peculiar institution” as it related to the first First Family. There is nothing like a personal story—a slave’s personal and true story—to get a deeper perspective. In Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge, that is exactly what we have.
The Shenandoah Valley is convenient to our region and offers a lot in the way of recreation and history, but it’s rare that travelers can find material on lesser-known towns and roadways. Andrea Sutcliffe’s Touring Shenandoah Valley Backroads is a good companion for people who enjoy a ramble away from the homogenized offerings of the well-traveled Interstate.
The book is split into 13 regional tours. They cover a lot of ground between them, from Front Royal to Fincastle. You’ll find “Walks in the Woods” at Massanutten Mountain briefly described, details on Grand Caverns (or Grottoes, as Thomas Jefferson knew it), and directions to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley with its exhibits on regional history and art, and many other sites to investigate along the way.
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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
“They know a million tricks, those novelists.” ― Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle
The first season of Amazon Prime’s The Man in the High Castle is based on Philip K. Dick’s book of the same title and is now continuing into its second season. The series does an astonishingly good job of immersing viewers in an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II, and America has been divided between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for years.
The players include spies and rebels, conflicted commanders, and ordinary people caught up in frequently lethal events. Even with all that is going on, things are not what they seem.
If you enjoy richly imagined worlds of might-have-been, battlefield conflicts that lead to difficult choices on the home front, or dangerous worlds where the truth lies beneath everyday appearances, try these books by other novelists who know a million tricks.
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney
In a war-riven world, why will saving humanity require . . . a poet? At twenty-six, Rydra Wong is the most popular poet in the five settled galaxies. Almost telepathically perceptive, she has written poems that capture the mood of mankind after two decades of savage war. Since the invasion, Earth has endured famine, plague, and cannibalism, but its greatest catastrophe will be Babel-17. Sabotage threatens to undermine the war effort, and the military calls in Rydra. Random attacks lay waste to warships, weapons factories, and munitions dumps, and all are tied together by strings of sound, broadcast over the radio before and after each accident. In that gibberish Rydra recognizes a coherent message, with all of the beauty, persuasive power, and order that only language possesses. To save humanity, she will master this strange tongue. But the more she learns, the more she is tempted to join the other side . . . (publisher’s description)
The Big Time (Change Wars #1) by Fritz Leiber
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. One of his major SF creations is the Change War, a series of stories and short novels about rival time-traveling forces locked in a bitter, ages-long struggle for control of the human universe where battles alter history and then change it again until there’s no certainty about what might once have happened. The most notable work of the series is the Hugo Award-winning novel The Big Time, in which doctors, entertainers, and wounded soldiers find themselves treacherously trapped with an activated atomic bomb inside the Place, a room existing outside of space-time. (publisher’s description)
Lola loves to go to the library with her mommy every Tuesday. She is ready long before the library opens at 9 o'clock with her library card and backpack of books to return.
Lola at the Library, by Anna McQuinn, shows how much a library can mean to a young child, with storytimes, a special kids' section, and so many books to check out.
In the days before modern hospitals, there were fewer options for the sick and elderly. Today, there are medical miracles, yes, but hospitals are often understaffed, and a family member is usually the best advocate an elderly patient can have. But what do you need to know to take on that role effectively?
James was a slave in Virginia when the American Revolution began. Wanting to earn his freedom while helping the new country, he volunteered for the Revolutionary Army, with the promise of his freedom at the war’s end—if the Americans were victorious.
He was assigned to work for the young and brilliant French commander who was helping George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette had a special job for James. He wanted him to become a spy. James agreed and appeared at a British camp in tattered clothes, asking for work. The British, discovering how clever James was, asked him to spy for them!
The haunted newlyweds in Rebecca. The vile and violent act of nature unleashed in The Birds. Deadly family secrets at the Jamaica Inn. British novelist Daphne Du Maurier was the queen of romantic suspense. She knew perfectly well how to portray a broken person who felt helpless in a desperate situation—someone who might have had a happy life were it not for the encroachment of nightmarish scenarios created by the wicked. Every so often, a movie director will rediscover her work and bring a tale of inner torment to the screen. In July 2017, Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel will enter theaters once more.
Poems by Cynthia Grady with illustrations by Michele Wood
Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michele Wood have crafted a book to share with children where each poem, together with its picture, is a thoughtful illumination of some aspect of slaves’ experiences.
"I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas." (From The Big Sea, one of Hughes’ autobiographies)
Our 16th president was a very odd-looking man. Long-limbed and raw-boned, this frontier president grew up without a lot of the niceties we take for granted today. He grew up surrounded by wilderness and not having much schooling. As he remembered it, "...I could read, write, and cipher (simple math) ... but that was all."