Thursday, April 21, 2011

At My Grandmother's Knee - by Faye Porter

Porter, Faye. At My Grandmother's Knee: Recipes and Memories Handed Down by Women of the South. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.

Every Southerner will recognize the recipes in this collection. If they were not prepared in your own family, you knew someone who brought them to the church dinners. This is a collection of recipes compiled by the author. The recipes are headed by short vignettes that include a quote from a granddaughter about her grandmother who made the recipe. The graphic design and layout of the book were nice and the food photography was excellent. Unfortunately the cookbook suffers from a major problem in regards to organization. The order in which groupings of recipes were presented was problematic. For example, there is a section on pies and cobblers, then cakes, then cookies, then one on chocolate pies, and then on other desserts. Why are the pies and chocolate pies not combined or at least together? The earlier sections also suffer organizational issues. I was actually disappointed in the book. The author, in her introduction, calls this book part history and part cookbook. Unfortunately the book failed to deliver on the history aspect. The vignettes were so short that a reader never got a sense of the grandmother in most cases. If this book was a tribute to grandmothers, why weren't there photographs of the grandmothers to accompany the recipes? The e-galley I read was missing the index so I'm unable to review that aspect of the book. I probably won't go out of my way to purchase a new copy of this book, but if I do happen to find it at a bargain price in a used bookstore or on a bargain table, I might consider it. This review is based on an advance reader's e-galley provided by the author through NetGalley. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thoughts on Newbery Book Rankings

Allen County Public Library created a ranking of Newbery Medal Books based on how much enjoyment their biased group of readers had from reading them. The top book was Lois Lowry's The Giver. I don't think that would have been my first choice, but I'm sure it wasn't the top choice of each of their biased readers. Russell Freedman's Lincoln: A Photobiography was number three. This book was all the rage about the time I was studying in library school. It's nice to see that it has lived up to all its hype at the time. Lois Lowry's Number the Stars came in at number four. I really enjoy Holocaust fiction, so I'm glad to see this one with such a high ranking on the list. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time from 1963 came in at number six. This one has certainly stood the test of time. Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia came in at number seven. This one was a favorite of a professor of mine in library school although we were well aware of the controversy surrounding the book which often made it a "banned book." Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry came in at number eight. It deals with African-Americans in Mississippi during the 1930s. It was a difficult book for me to read when I read it about 20 years ago. I think my biggest problem with it then (which is still a big problem for me today) is that it seems that Mississippi is ALWAYS portrayed as prejudiced against blacks. Almost all the books and even scholarly research seem to be centered on the Civil Rights era. I'd love to see some other depictions about the state in which I grew up. I am not denying that this existed, but it seems that literature ignores everything else about the state of Mississippi and gives people a lasting bad impression of the state. I was a bit surprised that Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall did not rank higher than twelve. Of course, I've always enjoyed a good frontier story. This one is set a little later than that, but it still evokes a simpler time and place. Linda Sue Park's A Single Shard is in my to be read pile. I hope I can get to it soon. It came in at number fourteen and deals with a 12th century Korean potter. I wish Joan Blos' A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal 1830-32 had ranked a bit higher than thirty-four on the list, but some of the biased reviewers probably don't like history and genealogy as much as I do. I was surprised that Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond only came in at number forty-six. It's such a classic. Another one that I'm surprised ranked as low as it did is Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. It came in at fifty-nine. I have to agree with their assessment of Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink (#61). It is a bit dated for today's audiences. I remember enjoying, but not being blown away by Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (#68). As someone who used to collect dolls, I had to read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. It's #72 ranking doesn't surprise me. In fact, I'm surprised it's not a bit lower. Apparently the group considered it a miracle that they made it through Virginia Eggertsen Sorensen's Miracles on Maple Hill (#74). I honestly don't remember it being that bad. I have to be honest about Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (#80). The librarian at our public library thrust this book at me when I was in about the second or third grade. I didn't like it then. I never tried to read it again although I loved Alcott's books. Maybe I should re-read it and see if I agree with the group's assessment of it. The lowest of the 89 books that I've actually read was #85, Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright. I don't remember that much about it, so it left no lasting impression.

It's certainly an interesting list. It's really no surprise that my personal favorites are probably those which are more in the category of historical fiction or set in times in the past.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Crowdsourcing the Summer Reading List

This morning I came across a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education where the author talked about "crowdsourcing" his summer reading list. His list contained one book that is already on my wish list of books to read -- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. It's on my list for obvious genealogical reasons. I began to wonder which books (primarily those which have been published in the last two or three years) that other genealogists have read lately that they would recommend for others to read. I cannot promise to read every book that is mentioned here because I've got a huge "to be read pile" that I need to reduce, several books that I'll be utilizing in creating additional presentations or in seeking background materials for families I'm researching, and several library books that I'd really like to read. However, I'm always on the lookout for other books to add to my "black hole" (as one of my reading friends calls it), some of which will even take priority over ones already there!

So, here are the rules, if you choose to participate. I will post my own response as I

  1. Books on the list should have been published in 2008 or later. (If they are older than that, they should already be on our radar.)
  2. Books can be fiction or non-fiction. They do not necessarily have to be genealogy-related or history-related, but that is always a bonus.
  3. Leave a comment here with no more than 5 books listed in the thread. (We want only the cream of the crop.) If you choose to post your response on your own blog, please leave a comment with a link to your blog here so I don't miss your response! With so many great blogs out there now, I can only follow a few. I wouldn't want to miss yours.
  4. Deadline for submissions is April 30, 2011. I will post a summary of the results before I leave for the NGS Conference.
I'm looking forward to reading your recommendations. I suspect that a few items in my black pole will gain priority and that a few more will be added. I also suspect that I will have read a few of the items. I'll be posting my own 5 to the list as soon as I've had time to think about which 5 books are the best. I read over 100 books last year. I've already read 56 books this year, but my reading will slow down now that I can get out and about a little more. My Kindle has made it far easier for me to read almost anywhere now. I still read "real books," but I've grown to love the convenience of my Kindle.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

SNGF: The 1940 Census

I'm looking forward to the 1940 census' arrival as are most genealogists and family historians. I'm so glad it's only a year away. I remember the wait for the 1930 census seemed endless. I'm sure there are those who believe the wait for this one is endless as well. I've wanted it a few times when working on something for a client, but I've rarely needed it for my own research as I have a plethora of resources for family members who were alive in that period.

Which family members were alive then? Both of my parents were alive at that time. They weren't married yet. Both were in Monroe County, Mississippi, although they did not live all that near one another. Their parents were alive at that time. All of these were living in Monroe County as well. Dad's brother was younger than he was and was still at home. Mom's sister Daisy was probably in college at East Mississippi Junior College in Scooba, although she may have been teaching at Bigbee by then. (I guess I need to locate that school program from Bigbee Schools that was done while she was teaching there to check the date on it.) I feel fairly sure that she had not begun her studies at Mississippi State College for Women by the spring of 1940. Mom's brother "Bud" may have been in the NYA or CCC program in the Tupelo area by that time or he may have already gone to Whitehaven (now part of Memphis) to an aeronautics school. I don't have the exact dates of his participation in each of these.

Now for my paternal grandfather's siblings: He was one of 12 children. His sister Ila, the eldest of the 12, was married and living in Osceola, Mississippi Co., Arkansas. They were already there by 1930, and that is where she and her husband died in the 1970s. I am not sure when his sister Carrie moved to the Mobile, Alabama area, but if she and her husband are not still in Monroe County in 1940, I will check Mobile County for them. I do know they were in the Mobile area by the early 1950s. I'm also not sure when his sister Virgie moved from Monroe County (where she is in 1930) to the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area (where they are in the early 1950s), but I will check Tuscaloosa County if they aren't in Monroe. I suspect that his brother Earlie had moved on from Memphis to Arkansas by 1940. I'm not sure exactly where he would be, but I know the most probable ones. The remainder of my paternal grandfather's siblings should all be in Monroe County, Mississippi.

My paternal grandmother's siblings: This could get complicated. She was one of 15 in the blended family. She had 5 step-siblings which I will not include here. She had 5 half-siblings. She had 4 other full siblings. Three of her full siblings were deceased by 1940. Her sister Norma was living in Memphis in 1930. I have no idea if she was still there are had moved elsewhere. All of her half-siblings were in Monroe County, Mississippi.

My maternal grandfather's siblings: Two of his siblings were deceased. His brother Lee will probably be in either Oktibbeha or Noxubee County, Mississippi. His sister Emma was in Telfair County, Georgia in 1930. She may be in Glynn County, Georgia or she may have moved back to Monroe County, Mississippi (or she might still be in Telfair County). His sister Marie should be in Monroe County, Mississippi. His sister Bess is probably in Clay County, Mississippi.

My maternal grandmother's siblings: Seven of her siblings had died before 1940. Her sister Mattie was in Lamar County, Alabama then. (A couple of years later she would be taken to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa to spend the rest of her days. That's another story for another day!) Her brother Charlie was in Monroe County.

My great-grandmother Bennie Duke Thornton was alive in Monroe County, Mississippi. What is even more surprising is that all four of her siblings were also still alive. I believe her brother Jim will be found in Hot Springs, Arkansas at the time of the 1940 census. He later returned to Monroe County, Mississippi. I believe her sister Myrtis will be in Itawamba County, Mississippi at that time, although Monroe County is a possibility as well.

My great-grandmother Jennie Phillips Fowlkes Howell was also alive in Monroe County, Mississippi. She had no known siblings.

This concludes a rather lengthy post for "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun."

An Editor Can Make or Break Your Society's Publication

In yesterday's mail I received the publication of one of the many societies to which I belong. As I began to leaf through the publication, I knew that there had been a change in editors without even having to search for the information. What had once been one of my favorite publications had, in a single issue, become a major disappointment.

Let me tell you some of the problems:

  • I have not counted the number of fonts used throughout the publication, but every single article in this "double issue" appeared to be in a different font -- many of them quite dated fonts.
  • There was not enough original material. Too much of this material had been reprinted or lifted from other publications. In fact, in one place they kept the logo of the publication from which it was lifted.
  • Some of the material was lifted from other publications, but notices of permission to reprint were not included, and neither were proper citations. In one instance where the article was taken from a society publication which was received in their library, they include the cover image of the journal from which it was taken but do not include the author's byline. There is a disagreement between the cover image and the citation (which was attempted in this case) as to the year in which it was published.
  • It is obvious that someone cut and pasted several of the ads in the publication because the lines from where they cut the ad are present and because the ads do not sit square with the page.
  • There is too much discrepancy in the manner in which articles are arranged. Some articles have a single column for the page. Others have two. Some are double-spaced; some are single-spaced. In one of the double-spaced articles, they accidentally failed to double-space between one of the lines, leading me to believe that this particular article was created during typewriter days.

I sincerely hope they get their act together and find an editor who will resume the high standards of the previous editor.

The previous editor wrote most of the issues from the last several years alone. He spent time digging in the courthouse for new records to abstract; he spent time looking at old newspapers to glean abstracts; he knew that fresh content was what people wanted -- not recycled content that can be found using PERSI. He also knew that copyright laws existed and that proper attribution should be made. He sometimes used materials from pre-1923 books which were in the public domain, but even then, he gave credit where credit was due. He adhered to standards set forth by BCG and frequently printed these in the publication. (It's a shame the person who edited the issue that arrived yesterday did not read those standards.)

I'm sympathetic to the fact that many editors of society publications have a very low pool of submissions and have to do much of the work on their own; however, there is no excuse for not adhering to standards and copyright when producing a society publication. I know that I'm guilty of not writing articles for publication when I should be doing this regularly. These society publication editors need our contributions -- whether they be articles, abstracts, or even images.

It's then up to the editor to present the materials in a unified format and to tighten up the writing and grammar so that readers have a quality publication instead of a scrapbook.

I have avoided mentioning the specific society and publication in question throughout this article. Why? Because I suspect there are many other cases just like this one out there in society publications throughout the world.

The ironic thing is that it is now time to renew my membership to this society. I probably will rejoin, but I'm doing so in a less enthusiastic manner this year because the value of this membership has declined with the decline in their publication's quality. I wonder how many others who received this issue and saw the renewal notice said, "If they are going to print stuff that I've used in the book I purchased from them and in this other publication to which I subscribe, I'm not going to renew this year." I suspect some will do as I plan to do and renew, but others will face the decision that many persons in these tough economic times are facing and decide that the value for the money is not there and that they are going to let this membership lapse for awhile. How sad!

Friday, April 01, 2011

George Washington's Legacy

As I was cataloging books today, I stumbled across a volume entitled George Washington's Legacy: The Towns Named in His Honor by Donald E. Howard which had been donated to our library. While the first portion of the book is biographical, the second part is very interesting for persons interested in local history. There are chapters on towns called Washington in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Georgia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, District of Columbia, Mississippi, Ohio (actually this one is Washington Court House), Indiana, and Illinois. Then there is a chapter that gives shorter blurbs on other Washingtons or Washingtons with words added such as Port Washington and Washington Island. There is even one town called "George, Washington" that is listed! The ones that have full length chapters are illustrated with photographs, some of which are historic. My favorite photographs are the ones which accompany the article on Washington, Kentucky.