Non-fiction by Virginia writers

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love by Jessie Knadler

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love by  Jessie Knadler

Jessie Knadler, transplanted from Montana, is living a less than satisfying life in the Big Apple. She’s just been laid off from her position as a magazine editor; she recently learned that her lover has a proclivity for (really) young girls; and she’s certain that her late nights spent drinking into the wee hours will not prolong her life. When she’s offered a freelance opportunity to return to Montana to write a story on a popular rodeo event, Jessie figures she’s got nothing better to do…plus there’s always the nagging fact of needing cash. In Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love, Jessie’s trip back West will dramatically change her life.

The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

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.

The Black O: Racism and Redemption in an American

By Steve Watkins

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In 1988, several white managers of the Shoney's restaurant chain protested against the company's discriminatory hiring practices, including an order at some restaurants to blacken the "O" in "Shoney's" on minorities' job applications so that the marked forms could then be ignored or discarded. When the managers refused to comply, they lost their jobs but not their resolve - they sued the company, and their case grew to become one of the largest racial job discrimination class action lawsuits and settlements in American history. The Black O is a fascinating, behindthe- scenes detective story about how the case evolved. The saga is populated with many unforgettable characters. Watkins teaches at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA.

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Texas School Book Depository: Prose Poems

By Cathryn Hankla

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"Humorous, quirky, and spiritually meditative by turns, Cathryn Hankla's prose poems move by associative leaps and take their inspirations from cultural and personal icons. A shadow narrative moors the collection in the perspective of a woman who survives a difficult childhood to eventually comprehend the paradoxes of adult life and whose journeys into her heritage bring her to a fuller realization of her place in the world."
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Once There Was a Farm: A Country Childhood Remembered

By Virginia Bell Dabney

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"It was an unusual household: the mother and three daughters lived on a ramshackle farm in western Virginia while the father stayed in Chicago, visiting his family during summer vacations and at Christmas. Virginia (Vallie), much younger than her sisters, never felt comfortable with her father. Playmates were a rarity, but she found rewards in the company of farm animals and the three black people who were hired help. Vallie's attempt at self-baptism and the cook's reaction makes an endearing story."
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Listening to the Page: Adventures in Reading and Writing

By Alan Cheuse

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Not how to get the message on your beeper. Fiction writer, critic, and radio book commentator Cheuse collects 21 essays and an interview with him, most previously published, looking back at the thousands of books he has read, reviewed, and loved. He clearly distinguishes between ancient and modern literature, and among the contemporary literatures of various cultures.

Fiction writer and book commentator on "All Things Considered," Cheuse reviews some of the many books he has read over the year; looks at many of the authors of those works; and talks about what makes a good story and gives suggestions on how to write.

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Growing Up

By Russell Baker

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"Russell Baker is the 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner for Distinguished Commentary and a columnist for The New York Times. This book traces his youth in Loudon County, Virginia. When Baker was only five, his father died. His mother, strong-willed and matriarchal, never looked back. After all, she had three children to raise and these were depression years. As is often the case, early hardships made the man."
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