Biographies & Memoirs
Have you been inspired by a great man or woman? Perhaps it was a political figure or leader you saw on TV, a humanitarian featured on the cover of a magazine, or a CEO in the Wall Street Journal. Most of us have found someone to admire at one time or another. While I have been intrigued by many people in the news, I usually turn to biographies for any in-depth understanding of great people. Poets, kings and queens, theologians, statesmen, artists, and authors—I don’t shy away from any type of person.
From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island, by Lorna Goodison, is a lyric examination of past generations living in the cityscapes and countryside of Jamaica. Ms. Goodison looks at her family’s strengths and strayings with loving, wise eyes.
Gladys Poles Todd, long-time Fredericksburg resident, died recently at the age of 101, having witnessed and been a part of the city’s changeover from its days of segregation. She lived to see schools and lunch counters integrated, and she was an important force behind making that happen. Among her many works, Mrs. Todd organized sit-ins, led voter registration drives, and supervised night study programs.
Her obituary gives a goodly number of details from her long and generous life, but you may also wish to read more about her in Fitzgerald’s A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania.
In 1997, she and other local leaders in the Civil Rights era got together for a forum at the library to discuss those difficult days. Fortunately, the program, Civil Rights: Fredericksburg’s Story, was recorded in DVD format and can be checked out.
Besides a historic legacy to be shared by the community, Mrs. Todd also left a personal record of her life. Her oral history, part of HFFI’s Pieces of Our Past series, is available to read in the Virginiana Room of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
Photo courtesy of The Free Lance-Star
Writer and artist Box Brown tracked down interviews with professional wrestlers to craft a graphic novel that celebrates the legend of Andre the Giant while also acknowledging the foibles of this fascinating figure.
“...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” - Jack Kerouac's On the Road
The Beats: A Graphic History tackles the generation of post-World War II writers who revealed an untold side of America while pushing censors' boundaries with their writing style.
Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky is a memoir set in the rugged, sheep-raising terrain of Montana. It was a time when the last of the small-town ranchers were on their way out, pushed along by the Great Depression and rich men buying up failed farms to add to their own.
The author’s people were not of the rich kind. They were scrappy, immigrant stock. Ivan’s grandfather came with family from Scotland. They ran sheep til their luck ran out. Then they worked for the big ranchers. Ivan’s father was a little guy, but he broke broncos—sometimes breaking his own bones doing it -- rode herd on sheep, bossed the other hands, and fell in love with a 16-year-old girl.
The ten Boom family lived a quiet, respectable life in the Dutch town of Haarlem. Corrie and her father made and repaired clocks. Her sister was their housekeeper. They were loved by the community. But in neighboring countries, Nazi Germany was rising, and soon it would sweep into the Netherlands.
Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2 picks up right where Ed Piskor's first phenomenal graphic novel left off. By 1981, the record industry has started to capitalize on the raw talent of urban youth. The sounds are slicker and the rhymes are tighter, but Piskor manages to find and highlight the raw edges of the musical movement.
March: Book One is the beautifully constructed graphic novel biography of Civil Rights activist and Congressman John Lewis. Relying only on black and white imagery, it is quiet in its form and presentation. Lewis' struggle of growing up in the Deep South, fighting to go to college, and helping to organize lunch counter sit-ins speaks volumes and needs no distraction.