Retired Military Warrant Officer Yvette S. Blake

This post is part of our Guest Picks series, featuring members of our library community sharing their favorite books and movies.

Born and raised in Newport News, Virginia, I am a retired military warrant officer, serving 27 years in the United States Army. My family consists of a charming husband, handsome twin boys, a beautiful daughter, and two energetic grandsons. I presently work for the Department of Defense and own a small business, which provides a number of financial services. Additionally, I am a licensed real estate agent associated with the CTI Real Estate firm. I hold an associate’s degree in graphic design, a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management, and a master’s in organizational management.

I have had an interest in art, history, reading, and culture for over 30 years. I am a member of the Sisters Sippin’ Tea Literary and Social Club. This book club has chapters all over the United States, and we not only read books but also participate in community service programs as well. I’ve been a collector of miniature dolls for over 10 years. I use my miniature collection to design historical exhibits for various venues. One of my exhibits ("For Love of Liberty") was in Fredericksburg’s downtown library last year. My newest interest is Civil War reenacting. I am a member of the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops, the Women of the American Civil War group, and a board member of the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum.

I joined the museum board in September 2014 and, as a newly appointed board member, I think that I have brought creative ideas that relate to the museum’s community cultural and educational venue. My roles at the museum are that of researcher and exhibitor for the museum’s collection. All of the exhibits include related books on the topics. My research interests include local artists, as well as African American and military studies, with an emphasis on the Civil War. This is why I love libraries. The things you can learn there and the information that you find are breathtaking at times.

Though I read many books online these days, there is nothing like the smell and touch of a book in hand, which is why my house is full of them. The accessibility of meeting rooms in the library has been helpful to me and my various groups over the years, so not only can I get a good read but a free place to meet as well. There are many other things that I have attended at the local libraries, from meeting authors to the showing of the Civil War movie (The Spy Within) in which I had the pleasure of being a part of. I say that rather than acting because truly I am no actor, but the opportunity to ACT like I was acting in it was very exciting and rewarding.

The book I’m presently reading is The Wide Circumference of Love, by Marita Golden. This one is close to my heart because my father, who lives with me, exhibits the early stages of Alzheimer’s and has been diagnosed with it. Nothing like the gentleman in the start of the book, but it’s still frightening to imagine what’s to come and very hard to see someone who was once strong as an ox need help getting down the stairs or having to put his seat belt on for him in the car. This one was a book club choice, else I don’t think I would have selected it on my own because I really don’t want to know what may lie ahead for my father.

One of my favorite books of all time is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, The history of binding feet was fascinating and unbelievable. It goes to show that women of all cultures have been going through extremes for centuries to perfect beauty.

Some of my other favorite reads include:

"This is an older book (1999) about different women who lived and participated in the Civil War. It’s a great book for research."

"For a long time, women’s contributions in this countries wars have been ignored or forgotten, but they are making a comeback! People need to know that women helped to shape this country. This book is about the struggles of African American women that broke the race and gender barriers to help win World War II. How great is that!" Also available as an eBook.

"This story is about Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African American entrepreneur in the 19th century. Mary’s story is one of intrigue, scandal, heartbreak, wealth, and poverty. This was a true Diva of her time!"

"This book was heartbreaking but one that I could not put down. I felt for the mother that so desperately wanted a girl that she made her newborn boy a girl (treated and dressed him like a girl), and I felt for the the little girl/boy that had to deal with the truth of it all."

"Yes, yet another book about a strong woman that lived during the Civil War. If you think life is hard now…imagine living back then. Mary Bowser was an educated black woman that had to dumb it down in order to support the Union by spying in the Confederate White House. Loved it!" Also available in large print and as a book club kit.

"This book was a great read. My thoughts went back to the Hatfields' and McCoys' feud. Neighbor against Neighbor. The sequel, 'Echoes of a Distant Summer,' was just as exciting. It’s one of those books that combines real-life history with fiction. So, you actually learn a thing or two while reading it."

"One of my roles as a Civil War reenactor is to disguise myself as a Civil War soldier. This book is about women who actually did that, and that’s my fascination with it. Strong women that did what they had to do for various reasons. Loved it!"

"This is one of those hard-time books of folks just trying to survive. A sad story of a strong and determined woman raising children in preparation of their life ahead had me affixed until the end." Also available as an eBook, on audio CD, and as a book club kit.

"This is a book about the history of African Americans of Falmouth. The stories are true and really interesting, and you can relate them to places in the area. I actually portray one of the people (Lucy Ann Walker) in the book. Hers is a captivating story as she and her husband developed a way to spy on the Confederate Army for the Union using a clothesline. I was so intrigued with her that I starting searching where she and her husband ended up after the war. This is quite a story."

"This one is close to my heart because my father, who lives with me, exhibits the early stages of Alzheimer’s and has been diagnosed with it. Nothing like the gentleman in the start of the book, but it’s still frightening to imagine what’s to come and very hard to see someone who was once strong as an ox need help getting down the stairs or having to put their seat belt on for them in the car. This one was a book club choice else I don’t think I would have selected it on my own because I really don’t want to know what may lie ahead for my father." Also available in large print.

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