Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poetry for Kids: Walt Whitman

I have loved the poetry of Walt Whitman for most of my life. 

One of the earliest volumes of poetry I bought myself was Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I was sixteen years old and read the poems over and over. Many years later I was in a choral group that sang Ralph Vaughn William's Sea Symphony, based on Whitman's poetry, a work that endures as one of my favorites. 

The idea of bringing Whitman's poetry and vision of human experience to children is dear to my heart. And today, the birthday of Walt Whitman, I was glad to read the newest  Poetry for Kids volume on Walt Whitman. Thirty-five poems or poem excerpts include Whitman's favorite poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, and his well-known poem upon the death of President Lincoln, O Captain! My Captain! 

An Introduction, commentary on each poem, and definitions are included as parent/teacher helps. The illustrations are beautiful.

When I came to On the Beach at Night I was moved to tears. 
"On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky./Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading.
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky.
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and ale the lord-star Jupiter.
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades."

Seeing the stars and Jupiter buried under the clouds, the child weeps. Her father comforts the child, saying, "Weep not, child,/Weep not, my darling,/With these kisses let me remove your tears,/The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious." And the father continues, "Something there is more immortal even than the stars."

Children watch as the world descends into darkness, the clouds of war obliterating happiness and peace. I remember sensing my parent's fear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the feeling of vulnerability when President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember watching the second tower fall on 9-11, and helping my son pack his most precious things in a bag in preparation. I had hoped he would grow up in a better world. 

And here is Whitman telling us that there is something more powerful than darkness, something eternal that tends toward clarity and light that we can trust in.

I look at the world today and how we are tending toward darkness, how the center is not holding. What can we say to our children about the future? 

Whitman has given us a voice. It is the gift of poetry to say what we long to hear, what we need to believe, but are unable to articulate. 

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Poetry for Kids: Walt Whitman
Edited by Karen Karbiener and illustrated by Kate Evans
Moondance Press
$14.95 hardcover

Adults who want to understand Whitman's vision would enjoy Song of Myself: A Complete Commentary from University of Iowa Press. Read my review here.

The Last Neanderthal Reimagines A Shared Past

In her new novel, The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron draws on new scientific information to recreate the world when our human ancestors and Neanderthals coexisted. Of course, DNA sequencing of Neanderthals has proven that they are also part of our ancestral heritage. No longer can we imagine that human superiority overcame an animalistic, inferior group. So what then did cause the extinction of the Neanderthal population?

In this novel, Girl is part of a small family group that just survives, living in isolation on their territory. Big Mama is in her early thirties and her body is failing. An older sibling has already joined her mate's family. Girl has a younger brother, Him. They have allowed a hanger-on, Runt, to join the family. Runt is small, talks too much, and is without the Neanderthal musculature and bone structure. But if he is weaker than Girl he also is brave and resourceful.

During the time of the fish run the local Neanderthal population gathers at the river to feast on spawning salmon, intermingle, and mate with individuals outside of the family group. This year will be Girl's time to mate and leave.

In alternating chapters, the contemporary foil to Girl is the archaeologist Rose who is excavating Girl's skeleton. Rose is independent, strong, and a leader, like Girl. Rose is also pregnant, as was Girl.

The two stories lines offer a contrast and comparison. The one difference is that Rose has a support group around her, for human society evolved through a social contract beyond the family group. Girl, on the other hand, has lost her family and finds no one at the summer river. She is vulnerable and alone--and doomed.

Humans' larger social groups allow them to share innovations and new technology. The Neanderthals' isolation limits their advancement, but they seem to have an instinctual race memory as well as acquired knowledge that is passed through generations. Girl pushes away abstract thinking when it arises as it interferes with the alertness that guarantees her survival.

Readers will compare this novel to Jean Auel's 1980 blockbuster The Clan of the Cave Bear. I have not reread the Auel book since it's debut and will not comment on a comparison. I will be interested to hear how Auel fans will react to Cameron's novel based on new research, but also on how her characterization of Girl and her presentation of Neanderthal and human interaction compare to Auel's book.

I have read some reviews by Goodreads readers who did not like Rose. Another reader pointed out that being a female scientist in a male-dominated field is hard. Rose needs to be dedicated, single-minded, and protective of her work. I liked Rose as a foil to Girl. Both are dominant, capable women. They allow readers to connect the similarities and differences of women's experiences across the millennium.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. I did have questions about Girl's concrete vs. abstract thinking and asked Ms. Cameron if she would clarify. I wrote,
Dear Ms. Cameron,
I have read your new book through NetGalley. I was hoping you would answer a question I have about Girl.  
At times she seems to draw on instinct, focused on the concrete and the 'now'. But at times she also shows an ability to imagine another's motives. For instance, she sees a calf and thinks "From his skitterish eyes, it was clear that he would have crawled back inside her belly if given the chance." This abstract thinking is what I am wondering about. 
Can you clarify your understanding of the Neanderthal mind and if this is an ability unique to Girl or if this is a new understanding of the species as a whole? 

I received a nice reply.
Hi Nancy,
I often get the same questions over and over. I don't mind at all, as I understand that they are fundamental to the experience of reading the book. Occasionally, though, I get a question that shows how thoroughly a reader has engaged with what I was trying to do. Your question feels like this to me. Thank you for asking. 
My idea was that Girl has a stronger connection between her mind and body than we do. For example, she would never get angry at herself for eating at extra cookie. If she could witness me scolding myself for eating a cookie, as many of us do, she would wonder who I was talking to-- there is only one me? I've often wondered why we have this split sense of ourselves, of the mind vs. the body. Girl would just simply eat a cookie.  
But, Girl is also a hunter. I read about animals and the new theories about how their minds work. One book that I particularly love is Frans De Wall, ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE? He talks about how we think of intelligence as a cognitive ladder, that the smarter are at the top. But when breaking down the different skills that animals have, this clearly isn't true. One of his frequently cited examples is that squirrels can remember where they cached hundreds of nuts a season, whereas a human could never do this. Does this mean a squirrel is smarter? No, but it does show the difference between their intelligence and ours. 
When you apply this kind of non-hierarchical thinking to hunters, the more they can get into the mind of their prey, the more successful they will be in making a catch. The hunter, be it either a leopard, Wildcat, or Girl, has to anticipate what their prey might do. What does the prey want? What might it do next? Girl was such a good hunter because she was also good at anticipating others needs. 
That is the long answer. The short one is that I was trying to think of Girl has having a different kind of intelligence that wasn't necessarily better or worse than ours. Just different. In reality, we know very little about how Neanderthals thought, so I extrapolated from what we know about the mind to imagine my own answers.
I hope that answers your question. Thank you, again, for it.
Cameron discovered she has 2.5% Neanderthal DNA and this novel is not an exploration of 'the other' as much as an imagining of our common ancestry.

I expect this book to interest many readers and be a big hit.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Last Neanderthal
Claire Cameron
Little, Brown & Company
ISBN: 9780316314480
$26.00 hardcover

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Reminders by Val Emmich: Love Victorious Over Death's Oblivion

Memories and remembering are at the heart of Val Emmich's first novel The Reminders. The Beatles music provides the thematic structure. The heart of the novel is love.

Nine-year-old Joan Lennon can't forget anything that has ever happened to her. When her grandmother Joan's Alzheimer's disease took away her memory it frightened Joan to be forgotten. Now she wants to create something so no one will forget her again: she wants to write a song.

Joan's father is a struggling songwriter; her mother works to pay the bills. Her parents have decided to close her father's studio and rent it out; her father will work in his dad's construction business. Joan is despondent. She hopes to win a songwriting contest so her dad can keep the studio.

Joan's parents' friend Sydney has died, and his partner Gavin, a television show actor, underwent a very public meltdown. Joan's mother had introduced Syd and Gavin. They invite Gavin to come stay for a while.

Gavin thinks he wants to forget everything about his true love Sydney. When he learns that Joan can recall every time she met Syd, down to the details of his clothes and conversation, they agree to help one another. Joan will tell stories about Syd. Gavin, who had been in her dad's band, will help Joan write a song.

Gavin's grief over Syd's death is complicated by doubts about Syd's activities prior to his death: he made several secret trips, meeting with a woman he never mentioned. Was their life a lie?

The story is told from Joan and Gavin's viewpoints in alternating chapters which offer a nice balance between Gavin's grief and doubt and Joan's determined, naive, hopefulness.

Joan is beautifully drawn, a lovable, adorable, kid. The book is worth reading just to know Joan! The story is about grief and yet what remains after reading is the joy. I am sure this uplifting book will become a best seller, well beloved by book clubs.

Emmich draws from his career as an actor and singer/songwriter, and his life as a dad, to create a charming and warm story of the power of friendship.

I was excited when Emmich agreed to answer some questions for me in February.

Nancy: What motivated you to write The Reminders? What came first--story, character?

Emmich: The character came first. Specifically, the character of Joan. I was a new father and I was frustrated by the lack of progress I'd made in my life and in my career as an artist. Fatherhood felt like an impediment to where I wanted to go. That finally changed when I attempted to write from the point of view of a little girl. If I wasn't the father of a girl (two little girls now), I probably wouldn't have tried something like that. Once I did, though, all sorts of new possibilities opened up for me, both creatively and as a parent. Drawing on my family life for materials finally put me in a place where I could start to accept my new reality and embrace it.

Nancy: Is the creative act for you an endeavor to, as Joan believes, ensure people remember you?

Emmich: No. I create because I have to create. I feel compelled to. It's probably the only time I feel happy. And at times, it doesn't even feel healthy. It can feel like an obsession or addiction. But after I create something, if I think it's any good, I feel this strong desire to share it with people. I created the thing first for myself--to try to process life and understand it better--but I still feel I need some validation from others. I shouldn't need it. But I do. I crave applause and feedback. I wish I didn't.

The whole idea of being remembered, which is a huge part of the book, is related to the above (and certainly in the book, the two are directly linked), but it's also, for me, a whole separate problem. It bothers me that we're so focused on what's happening today and what will happen tomorrow that the past is often too easily forgotten. I'm certainly guilty of forgetting. And I'm not talking about the distant past only, but even the recent past, as in last week, or yesterday. Now, when someone close to us passes away, which is what happens to the character of Gavin in the book, there's a feeling of guilt that comes with forgetting. Forgetting feels like a betrayal. That's how it feels for Joan. To forget her is unfair, because she would never forget you. But some amount of forgetting is helpful, and even necessary. It allows us to heal. It's a complicated thing, which is why I love the quote by James Baldwin that begins the novel: "it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both."

Nancy: We know so much these days--the relationship between Gavin and Joan could have been considered suspect. What considerations helped you ensure the purity and healthiness of their relationship?

Emmich: I understand what you mean, but I also hate that I understand what you mean. In other words, it's a shame that's where our minds go. I've always loved stories where two very different sorts of people are placed together. It's a good starting point for conflict and misunderstanding. So I didn't want to avoid that uneasy feeling completely. But in one of my earliest drafts, the character of Gavin was straight and I did find that there were moments between his character and Joan's that felt strained in a way that was distracting from the narrative. Once I decided to make Gavin gay, I found that it relieved a lot of that unintended pressure. Also the fact that Gavin is pining for his lost love and Joan is helping him reach that lost love helps, I think, maintain that feeling of purity that you mentioned.

Nancy: What were the challenges and rewards of writing a book as compared to writing and performing your songs and acting?

Emmich: There are different challenges with each, too many to list here. But I will say that so far writing a novel has been the most challenging thing I've ever attempted in the arts. In terms of rewards, a song can be written in minutes, recorded in a few hours, and uploaded online where it can be streamed instantly. So, it's a much more immediate sense of satisfaction, both with the creative act and the sharing.

Writing long-form fiction is a slog that can stretch for many years. And it's a lot lonelier. I can write and perform songs with others, but a novel is written alone Writing prose is rewarding in a different sort of way than more communal activities like music and acting. Maybe it requires a little more confidence and faith, I don't know. You'll have to ask me this question again when I'm a little farther along. My book still hasn't been published yet. Most people in m life still haven't read it and I've yet to do my first public reading. So, I haven't had much feedback from readers. All this buildup scares me. Wish me luck.

Val Emmich
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

See the trailer at

The Reminders
Val Emmich
Little, Brown & Co/Hachette
Publication May 30, 2017
$26 hard cover
ISBN: 9780316316996

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Theft By Finding by David Sedaris

"In the U.K., if you discover something of value and keep it, that's theft by finding."
I kept a diary for long periods in my life. So, I like to read diaries. I read Samuel Pepys' diary. It took me two years. I read it in bed so every night the last line I read was usually, "And so to bed."

I thought it would be great to read David Sedaris's diaries. I have read several books by Sedaris and I've heard him on the radio. The first book I read was on recommendation by a library staff person.

I was living in a teeny rural town where the police chief had his own untrained militia and was armed with ex-military weapons, including a Hummer. I heard the KKK left flyers on driveways. The local church was splitting because the denomination was not strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay and anti-anything else progressive liberal. I went to the library and asked for funny books to raise my spirits, and I was given Holidays on Ice.

Its no wonder funding to libraries has been on the cutting block under the current administration.

Consquently, I should have known what I was getting into when I requested Theft by Finding, excerpts from his 156 volume diary kept between 1977 and 2002.

I had no idea.

"What I prefer recording at the end...of my day are remarkable events I have observed.."

And he has observed some pretty strange events.

At times I thought, what did I get myself into? Other times I laughed out loud, but no way was I going to tell anyone what was so funny. It's  embarrassing to laugh at something so incorrect.

And yet, I realized, Sedaris's stories were, well, pretty believable for all their bizarreness. I lived in Philadelphia and seen some pretty weird stuff myself. But that's another story.

Also, Sedaris has some pretty spot-on insights.

One of my favorites is from November 17, 1987, Chicago. The police had caught a man who had smashed windows and painted swastikas on Jewish businesses. He was a skinhead with tattoos, Sedaris writes,"which is strange, I think, because Jews in concentrations camps had shaved heads and tattoos. you'd think that anti-Semites would go for a different look."

His self-knowledge is also commendable. On January 26, 1999, in Paris, he is called a misogynist. "No," I corrected her, "I'm not a misogynist. I'm a misanthrope. I hate everyone equally."

Sedaris is thoughtful. On December 31, 1998, he wrote that his dad, visiting him in Paris, had the evening before leaned near a candle and set his hair on fire. He wrote, "This morning we went to buy him a hat." Such a good son. Helping Dad keep his dignity by covering up the scorched hair.

In his forward, Sederis suggests readers peruse the book, sampling here and there, now and then. Good luck with that. Frankly, it's hard to put down.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

"Raw glimpses of the humorist's personal life as he clambered from starving artist to household name... though the mood is usually light, the book is also a more serious look into his travails as an artist and person... A surprisingly poignant portrait of the artist as a young to middle-aged man." —Kirkus (starred review)

Theft By Finding
David Sedaris
Little, Brown & Co.
Publication May 30, 2017
$28 hardcover
ISBN: 9780316154727

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Summer 1971: Endings and Beginnings

The summer of 1971 brought huge changes in my life, beginning with a family death and ending with love.

Gary and I, July 4, 1971
Early in the summer I went to Adrian to visit for a few days, seeing several friends who were in summer school--including Gary. At the Pub the guys flipped the pressed metal ashtrays for fun. I had a midnight curfew to get back to the dorm; until then, Gary and I walked around campus and sat on the hill in front of Peale Hall.
A bit flattened, but this is an ashtray
from the Pub which the guys liked to flip.
On July 1 a Kimball friend visited me, struggling with personal issues. I did not know how to help and I did not want to get sucked into the drama. I was burned out from trying to keep Adrian friends away from drugs. Now I just wanted to be happy with Gary. I never called her back. I felt guilty for a long time, feeling I had let her down. Thirty years later she said she did not recall I had ever let her down.

On July 3 Gary took me to meet his family. I wrote that they were nice. They grilled and we ate outside. His Grandmother Bekofske was there. She was a character with a glint in her eye. She told me how she became "emancipated" from the "tyrant tea."
Gary and I at his parent's home
On July 4 Gary joined my family for BBQ in the back yard. My Ramer Grandparents and Uncle Dave and his family were there.
I am on the right, dad across from me.
Grandpa Ramer is at the far end on the right.

Grandma and Grandpa Ramer, July 4 1971
When Gramps learned that Gary had never seen The Shrine of the Little Flower he had to take him for a ride to see it right then. Learning that Gary was considering seminary, Gramps offered him his sermons.

My Grandfather Ramer, my mother's father, was born to an unwed mother in 1905. They lived with his maternal grandmother in Milroy, PA. Before Gramp's tenth birthday, both his mother and his grandmother had died. He went to live with his mother's sister's families.

My grandfather Lynne O. Ramer with his mother
Gramps was a good student and a quick learner. His Uncle Charlie Smithers would reward him for memorizing the state capitals or Pennsylvania county seats. Gramps was accepted to Susquehanna University, working in the kitchen to pay his tuition. After earning his BA, he stayed to earn a Master of Divinity.
Grandpa Ramer on the Susquehanna College kitchen staff
Gramps was Evangelical Lutheran. When he did not get a call, he and his college friend Roger Blough attended Columbia University Teacher's College in New York City. Gramps was hired to teach mathematics and history at Hartwick Seminary, near Cooperstown, NY.  He fell in love a student. After working his way across the country during his summer break, he returned and asked her parents for her hand in marriage.
Grandpa Ramer in the Kane High School yearbook
They moved to Kane, PA where my grandfather taught high school math. My mother and her siblings quickly arrived so that by age 21 my grandmother had four children. During WWII Gramps worked as an engineer at the Tonawanda, NY aviation factory testing airplane struts and his family lived in war housing in Sheridan Parkside.

Gramps at the Tonawanda, NY plant
In 1955 my grandparents moved to Royal Oak, MI. Gramps was an engineer at Chevrolet, taught at trig and calculus at Lawrence Tech, and was a deacon at an Episcopal Church in Ferndale.
Granpa Ramer in the Lawrence Tech yearbooks
Gramps, far left, as a deacon
Somehow he found time to write hundreds of articles for his hometown newspaper and hundreds of letters to people all over the country. In the late 1950s he became interested in research out of Columbia University's Lamont Observatory and obtained funding for the project through his old friend Roger Blough, who was then head of U.S. Steel.
On June 7 I got a job at Burger King on Main Street. I bought a uniform and shoes and studied for the job. A lot of us had been hired and we crowded the kitchen. I was not proactive and waited to be told what to do. The job lasted one day. I didn't make the cut.

On Friday, July 10, Gary arrived for the weekend. He almost stopped by to see Gramps first. On Saturday, July 11 my family and my Ramer grandparents had dinner at the Wigwam.

After my grandfather's first heart attack he gave up smoking, walked more, and lost weight. But on Sunday morning, July 12, I wrote, "Last night around 6:00 pm Grandpa died. I loved Grandpa much. He was a wonderful man. "

I was devastated. "I cannot word the sorrow, I cannot pen the knowledge and burden of truth, I cannot spell the doubt of what actions to perform. I can only feel and wait for enlightenment."

I hated going to the funeral home. I wrote, "I bit my lip and hung to the back of the family, with Gary at my hand. I wouldn't go up and look at Grandpa because it wasn't natural, it wasn't really him." Gary reminds me that I said "that isn't Grandpa; it is only the house he used for a while."

Someone was finally taking care of me. I wrote that I never had thought about marriage before, especially before I had completed college. And I was only 18. And Gary was still deciding about seminary or teaching. But, "I needed him so much and he lent me strength."

I continued, "I saw the family that Gramps began, raised, loved, and I knew his ideas were in us, and his memory--the memories of his actions, an example to follow. I knew he would never be gone because he left himself behind--I knew it was not a sad funeral because he lived a full life, accomplished much, found happiness, and created love--what more could a person want from life? Even Gary had been touched by Gramps." Tom and I and our cousin Mark came home about 7:30 pm. We ate and watched TV until everyone returned around 11:30 pm.

"Grandma called this morning. She found a letter in Gramps' desk, [which] he wrote it in '69. He said he wanted a simple, closed casket funeral. I was to get all of his writing and correspondence and the family tree information. I always said I wanted them."

On July 12 my college roommate Marti and her boyfriend Sam came to the funeral parlor. That evening I cried listening to Limelight [Charles Chaplin's theme song from the movie by that name]. I wrote I was "filled with joy for the love Gramps bore for me, the ideas and help he gave me. I thought of the family he made when he had none, and how we loved him."

July 13 was my grandfather's funeral. I wrote that "it was not a sad funeral because he had accomplished much, found happiness, and created love. What more could a person ask? A sad funeral would be for the man who never loved, never was loved, but forever dwelt on his own pleasures." I noted that I was rereading Thomas Wolfe's chapters about Ben's death.

Gramps was interred at White Chapel cemetery, near a Blue Spruce like the one in his Berkley back yard, and not far from a giant cross.

Mom stayed with Grandma that evening. I contemplated the future and life. I wrote, "the sky was blue and the trees were green and the wind blew down strong--The stars against the evening sky shone brilliantly. Grampa said, "sentimental bunk--but what make us tick?" I realized it was at Gardenia the summer we moved when I found Gramp's 101 Famous Poems and discovered poetry. And now he's got me into the Maryland Anthology."

Grandpa Ramer had shared my poems with Maryland poet Vincent Godfrey Burns who edited an anthology and had accepted my poem. I don't know how Gramps knew Burns, but he had a copy of the book he wrote, I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang and I had read it.

Gramps had shared his books with me. He had taken me to visit a professor whose son had a large telescope for summer studies and I saw Jupiter's rings. He gave me mimeographed educational materials on nature and science prepared by one of his friends. On a trip to New York State, Gramps took me to see his Hartwick Seminary student Pastor John Kisselburgh who wrote Shadow of the Half Moon. When a girl, he took me to see a Tarzan movie and The Story of Ruth. And I had met his friends and family in his hometown of Milroy, PA and in Tonawanda, NY.

When I went to college he sent me a weekly letter full of family news, and always included coins taped to a paper in the shape of a smiley face.
Grandpa Ramer taped coins to index cards to
include in his weekly letters to me when I was at college
I wrote, "I feel him in me-- his strength, ambition, ideas. I believe I inherited a lot from him."

Over the years I tried to be like him. He never met a stranger, always finding some mutual ground to build a relationship upon. Many years later, on the morning of my Grandmother Ramer's funeral, I was outside of a store waiting for it to open, chatting with a man who was also waiting. It turned out he had been one of my grandfather's students in Kane, Pennsylvania! He had ended up working in Detroit also. He told me that my grandfather was a wonderful man.

Grandma Ramer asked me to write to Ben Meyers, the Lewiston Sentinel columnist who shared hundreds of Gramp's letters recalling Milroy in the early 1900s. I wrote that Gramps passed away in his backyard among his 'posies' and trees.

Gary had to study for his psych exam the weekend after the funeral. I played my records and looked over my scrapbooks.

July 14 I was working in telephone sales for a real estate office. I hated the job. I had to take a bus and transfer to another bus, costing 45 cents. "I always get lost and the drivers are never helpful, and everyone on the bus sits unsmiling and alone so all the seats are full and I have to go to the back of the bus for a four block ride because no one wants you to sit with them, except violin players."  I had sat with a girl with a violin who took lessons at Wayne State. I ran into her several times.

"I wish I could read and write and play piano and read Gramp's books and letters and visit the cemetery--no time with this stupid job. I'd rather be active, or outside, but no, and every day a dress and stockings--I hate it."

On July 17 I wrote, "The only thing that kept me sane was selling raffle tickets for church, the rocks in the parking lot where I ate lunch, and walking to Save-On in the evening." I always liked rocks. I hated the windowless room and my boss and the commute.

The next day I went to Swanton, OH, to attend the birthday party of my Adrian friend George. He and his girlfriend Nancy took me on a tour of their hometown. From there I went to Adrian to see Gary. I left Adrian at 9 pm and ran out of gas coming home and had to walk to a Texaco station!

June 21 Gary was visiting and we went to Great Scott where I saw a Kimball friend. Gary had brought his Jesus Christ Superstar album to lend me and I gave him Clair de Lune piano music and my copy of Voltaire's Candide. The boy I used to date now and then called. I expect I told him I was seeing someone from college. I always knew he was in love with someone else anyway. I lost my telephone soliciting job.
I was in contact with Kimball friends, including Peggy who told me Shirley and Lynn were camping with their boyfriends. Margie from Herald staff brought her 1971 Lancer to show to me. I felt sad hearing Margie talk about Kimball and I wondered if "tomorrow will measure up to yesterday." Margie was going to Albion in the fall. We 'rapped' about college. A girl called me to update me on Kimball kids gossip. Somehow she knew all about who was dating who.

I watched Love Story and The Sterile Cuckoo on tv at Grandma Ramer's house.

Sunday, July 26  Gary and I went to see my roommate Marti, and with her boyfriend, we went to the Detroit Institute of Art. For my birthday on July 28, Mom made hot dogs and cake. Gary gave me a bronze incense burner.

Gary announced that he had decided to go to seminary after college. He was deciding between Garrett in Chigaco and METHESCO in Ohio. I was supportive of Gary's decision.

In August I picked up my Grandfather's papers and books, which my parents would store for me. Gramps' sermons, stoles, and surplice were also put into storage for Gary to use in the future.

It was coming up to a year from when I met Jim, and over a month since I let him know about Gary. I said I was finally "getting over my hate, I mean, defensive dislike to override my guilt complex. Looking back he [Jim] was really ok." Earlier in the summer, on June 5, I wrote that I had broken up with Jim because I "am a creep with a guilt/doubt complex" who was unable to find it "seriously possible to really love" since my heart was broken by my old high school boyfriend. Gary was the first to make me feel love again.

Over the summer, Dad took Tom and me fishing. I went to K-Mart to buy records, had dinner at Arby's and ice cream at Ray's, visited my Aunt Nancy, Uncle Don, and Uncle Dave and their families. Mom, Dad, Grama Ramer, and Aunt Nancy and my brother Tom all had birthday parties.

Gary and I had joined my folks and the McNabs at the Galaxy Drive-In, all in separate cars. The McNabs, my family, Gary and I went to Algonac and on the St. Clair River. Gary took me to picnic at Bloomer Sate Park and we went swimming. I mentioned going to the cottage of a boy from my church who was also at Adrian.

On August 30 Gary and I went to the Michigan State Fair for the Sunrise Service, which was televised. The Youth Revival sang hymns and a song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Grandma Ramer joined my family for pizza that night.

I was preparing my shopping list for college: contact solution, Ten-O-Six, Dew Kiss lotion, toothpaste, instant coffee, new slacks, nylons.

Summer was over. It was time to return to Adrian. Several of my freshman friends were not returning including Elaine and Jim. I was considering changing colleges to be nearer to Gary. Western if he went to Garrett? Kenyon if he went to METHESCO? But I would loose my state scholarship. Gary even talked about renting a room from Grandma Ramer and commuting to METHESCO.

I looked forward to a semester together at school with Gary, but I knew that come December he would be leaving for seminary and I did not know what that meant for our relationship.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

I have been privileged and protected in my small life. I came from a working class family with no significant problems. I was able to find a college to accept my less than stellar grades. I married a man who went into the ministry. We had challenges but we had what we needed. No one in my family was ever in jail, no one was targeted because of color or religion.

I knew about the great faults in American society and my heart was in the right place. I spoke out when I could, boycotted, tried to be educated, tried to pattern the right behavior. But I had no idea of the depth of my ignorance until reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

The stories Stevenson shared crushed me, like a pressure on my chest. I read a chapter at a time, then had to step away and let the horror and despair subside. For Stevenson reveals an American justice system not only without mercy but that was corrupted on the local level for political gain.

In the 1980s, fear of rising crime was used by politicians who proposed stricter and harsher prison sentences, three-strike laws, and treating children as adults. As prisons filled to overcapacity, for-profit prisons arose and they lobbied for harsher sentences to keep their business profitable. The death penalty was reinvigorated, even if the methods employed were cruel and unreliable.

Caught in the cycle are innocent men and women, children relegated to life in prison where they are sexually abused, the mentally handicapped, and women who raped by men unpunished for their abuse of power.

Bryan Stevenson was drawn to seek justice for those on death row, especially the innocent without legal counsel. He started the Equal Justice Initiative and Just Mercy is the story of his work and the people he tried to help. It is a cry for reform of the justice and prison system. And a cry for mercy.

The book has won numerous awards and prizes. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times called it, "Searing, moving." It is a disturbing book to read, especially because upright citizens who demand punishment have little idea of who they are condemning and what they are condemning them to. We have instituted "vengeful and cruel punishments" justified by our own suffering. "But simply punishing the broken--walking away from them or hiding them from sight--only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity," Stevenson writes.

There is one story that brings hope. A prison guard who showed extreme racial prejudice learns more about the prisoner he has treated with contempt, and he could connect his experiences to the prisoner's. It changed the guard's mind and his life.

Stevenson is the mouthpiece for the stories of unjustly imprisoned men and women, allowing readers to understand their walk. May we learn compassion and press for a just system, showing mercy to those broken by racism, mental illness, poverty, addiction, abuse, and trauma.

As Stevenson reminds us, we are all broken people.

I received a free book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson
Spiegel & Grau
$16 paperback
ISN: 978-0-8129-8496-5

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Dinner Party and Other Stories by Joshua Ferris

I was in the car with my husband listening to NPR when we heard an interview with Joshua Ferris on his new book The Dinner Party and Other Stories. My husband is no fan of short stories but he said to me, "I'd read that book." I smirked because I knew I COULD read it. Being pre-approved by Little, Brown & Co. on NetGalley has its perks!

I downloaded the book and started reading.

These twelve stories are about how good people can make really bad decisions. The stories have humor, ironic twists, and chillingly bad choices. I was mesmerized.

In More Abandon, or What Ever Happened to Joe Pope? a man trashes and rearranges the offices of his coworkers, then turns the lights off. He thinks, "An odd scruple. But it's not the world that needs destroying, just his world."

The Stepchild concerns a man who is brooding over his failed marriage. He shows up at the apartment of a married woman he met once. He tells his sad story, and they talk, and 'fall in love'. At the end of the day, he returns to his ever suffering wife.

In The Dinner Party, a couple argues about friends who are late for dinner. The husband can't endure another meal with them, but his wife insists on keeping contact with one of her oldest friends. Finally, the wife retreats to bed leaving the food to spoil while the husband goes to see if their friends are ok. He arrives to find a party going on. His wife's friend knows their friendship is a sham, but he unable to tell his wife the truth.

In The Valetudinarian, Arty and his wife retire to Florida, then his wife dies leaving him alone in a strange place. He withdraws from life and nurses his unhappiness.When his children call for his birthday, he tries to engage their attention with complaints about his health. Then a prostitute shows up at his door, a birthday gift from a friend.

The Pilot concerns a scriptwriter who can't believe he has been invited to a party hosted by a famous director/actor. He wonders, was it a mistake? Should he go? He's been sober for sixteen months but the party unnerves him and he slips.

In The Fragments, a man's wife works later and later until one night she does not come home at all. He is sure she is having an affair. He broods over dividing their things. As he dismantles their life, his wife returns home.

Life in the Heart of the Dead takes place in Prague. A businessman goes on a historical tour of the city. He realizes his whole life has been 'a tour' without a destination.

In A Night Out, Tom and Sophie are reconciling after being estranged over his affair. When Tom speaks to a woman, Sophie is sure she was his mistress and disappears to follow her. Tom searches the city for his wife, finding he is too broke for subway fare. At a bar, he discovers his credit card has been canceled. Sophie's jealousy spurs her into an extreme act of revenge that could cause harm to herself. Meantime, Tom's real ex-mistress shows up at an inopportune time.

In one of the most disturbing stories, A Fair Price, Jack, asks what are we here for? Do we have some greater purpose in life as men? He has been a disappointment to his father, always making 'a hash' of things. He hires a man to help him move some things and unsuccessfully tries to engage him in human contact. In frustration, Jack vents his anger and is left to consider what a 'good' man does when he has done something wrong.

A fatherless son watches his mother throw out one more man in Ghost Town Choir. The man understands the child longs for a father. "Hell, who couldn't use a daddy?" he thinks, apologizing that he couldn't help. His mother responds by changing things around her instead of herself.

I loved the writing, descriptions like "his mustache moved up and down like a centipede." And lyric passages like this from The Breeze: "The children's voices carried in the blue air. Then the breeze came. It cut through the branches of trees, turning up the silver undersides of the young leaves."

My favorite story was The Breeze. On a perfect day, Sarah imagines a perfect time with her husband. She feels under pressure to do something memorable. She feels her husband is dull and her life is passing by without having really lived. Plans are made and go awry as she imagines possible outcomes.

There is a desperation in Sarah, "thinking her options were either a picnic or death." There is a longing for a fuller, more authentic life. "She wanted to be a different person, a better person, but he was perfectly happy being his limited self." Sarah is wise enough to realize that happiness is something she must find for herself for no person can give it to you.

In the end, she makes the right decision, finally understanding how they can both enjoy this one and perfect day in a beautiful and simple act of invitation.

These are stories I want to read again.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Read The Dinner Party at

The Dinner Party and Other Stories
Joshua Ferris
Little, Brown & Company
$26 hardcover
ISBN: 9780316467973

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

An Evening with Elizabeth Berg

This week I saw Elizabeth Berg at the Troy Public Library in Troy, Michigan. The TPL hosts authors several times a year and was very excited to have Berg, the best-selling author whose book Durable Goods was picked for Oprah's Book Club.

I was fortunate to have read and reviewed her last book, The Dream Lover about George Sand, and also her upcoming novel The Story of Arthur Truluv, coming out in November. I had also read several of her early books when they came out.

My friend Theresa took a writing workshop with Berg and praised her sensitivity and encouragement.

Berg shared the history of her interest in writing, her varied career, and her experience in publishing. Read an article about at

Berg's novel Durable Goods, published in 1993, was inspired by her experience as an 'army brat' with frequent moves and an adored but abusive father. The book led to a better relationship with her own father. And it ensured financial success as an Ophrah Book Club pick, selling 500,000 copies. She used some of her royalties to buy her father his dream car.

Berg's decision to be a nurse was a sudden revelation based on her desire to care for and love others. Of special interest was how her training as a nurse impacted her ability to create characters. Nurses are instructed to see the whole person and to leave all presumptions and prejudices behind.

I could definitely see how Berg's values and experience resulted in The Story of Arthur Trulov. Arthur has the ability to love wholly, even his difficult neighbor and a runaway teenage girl with a nose ring. I expect the book to be a huge hit, and I hope that the message of the story resonates with readers and changes lives.

The audience was interested in how Berg approaches writing. Berg does not follow a strict routine or schedule but waits for the story and characters to be ready.

I had the opportunity to ask Berg a question. After remarking on her upcoming novel I asked how she came to write The Dream Lover, a historical fiction/biographical fiction novel so unlike her other books.

Her answer was an old one: she became interested in Sand and wanted to read a fictional account of her life but found no one had written one. She first suggested the idea to fellow author Nancy Horan, who wrote Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mame Borthwick (which I have read twice) and Under the Wide and Starry Sky about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife (which I can't wait to take off my TBR bookshelf). Horan replied that she was too tired, so Berg decided to write the book that she wanted to read.

It was a difficult process and she nearly gave the novel up several times. Then there were the rewrites suggested by her editor. In her career, Berg's editors rarely asked for a word changed. Lucky for us readers, she persisted and the book was completed.

Berg had considered a fictional account of the life of Carson McCullers but realized she did not want to live in that dark world. Instead, she has dedicated to writing books of inclusion and inspiration.

It was exciting for me to hear Berg mention that 'someone compared' The Story of  Arthur Truluv to a parable. Because that is just what I had written in my review to NetGalley and on Goodreads a few weeks previous! I can dream it was my review she was referencing. If not, at least I am not alone in my connection!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Friend In Need: Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde

When I have been reading a lot of 'heavy' books and need to lift my spirit to remember that good things can happen in this world of trials and conflict, I am glad to have Catherine Ryan Hyde to turn to. Her newest book, Allie and Bea, did not disappoint.

Hyde's books have a common thread: imperfect people with real life problems, often mired in anger or despair, are lifted through an empowering, healthy relationship.

This novel begins with Bea, a widow in her senior years, living on Social Security that can not cover her basic needs. Scammed out of her meagre savings, she has reached rock bottom and becomes a homeless vagrant living out of a panel van.

Enter Allie, a fifteen year old on the run for her life. When Allie's upper class parents opted for lifestyle over paying the IRS they ended up in jail. Allie is taken under Child Protective Service and placed in a group home for delinquents until a foster home opened up.

Allie has high standards for herself and holds others to them. It brings her into conflict with a violent girl, and fearing for her life, Allie joins a runaway girl only to find herself faced with a human trafficker.

Allie flags down Bea's van and forces her way into Bea's life, and in nine days together on the lam, Bea is brought to reevaluate her entire life and Allie finds someone who will stand by her when her family has failed her.

I enjoy how Hyde takes contemporary social issues and through likeable characters elicits an emotional understanding from readers. Yes, her endings are neat and sweet, but that is why I turn to her books. Sometimes we all need a wish fulfillment tale.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Allie and Bea
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: May 23 2017
$14.95 paperback
ISBN: 9781477819715

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Boy by Tracey Chevalier: Othello on the Playground

I looked forward to reading the Hogarth Shakespeare update of Othello by one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Tracey Chevalier.

Set in the 1970s, New Boy is the story of Osei Kokote, son of a diplomat from Ghana, newly arrived on the suburban Washington D.C. schoolyard. O, as he is called, soon finds that Dee, the most popular girl in school, chooses him to be her boyfriend. But Ian, the playground bully, sees his entire social hierarchy threatened by O's love conquest and kickball ability.

Racial stereotyping and prejudice simmers, unspoken but obvious in the teacher's attitudes. When teachers observe Dee and O touching each other's hair it only confirms their worst fears about the black boy.

Ian sets up a series of events to make O suspect his good fortune, bringing misery and physical harm.

Chevalier's playground society rings true to the character's age and time, and the Othello story becomes more chilling and disturbing played out by characters in an America divided by racism.

New Boy is a powerful book. It can stand on its own, but I hope it will be used to introduce young adult readers to Shakespeare's tragic play. I recommended it to my book club.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

New Boy
Tracey Chevalier
Publication May 16, 2017
$25 hardcover
ISBN: 9780553447637

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some Rise By Sin, and Some By Virtue Fall

"...I damned myself by cooperating, and now I wish to make up for it and save my soul."
"If I were you, I'd be thinking about saving my fucking life, not my soul."
Father Riordan, a Franciscan priest, has been sent to the Sonoran Desert in Mexico where he has learned that things can always get worse. The police chief of his parish, San Patricio, has been assassinated and the village is caught in the war between a corrupt police department and a drug cartel gang hiding in the Sierra Madre mountains.

 The age-old question has always been: If God is good, why is there suffering and evil? 60,000 murders in six years have brought Riordan past doubt; he is losing his faith altogether.

As a young priest in Guatemala, Riordan preached liberation theology. He had faced guns in the hands of corrupt authorities before. Now a Mexican Federal agent insists he cooperates as an informer, sharing what he hears in the confessional booth to identify drug gang members.

Riordan must decide if breaking his vows is justified, even to identify rapists and murderers. It would mean being defrocked. And if he still believes, committing his eternal soul to damnation. Can doing the wrong thing for the right reason help his people? How best can he provide safety for his sheep?

Some Rise By Sin by Philip Caputo made me very thoughtful. His portrait of Mexico, a beautiful country that has become a "moral wilderness" is vivid.

In Caputo's Mexico NAFTA has ruined small orchard owners. Migrants heading north are kidnapped, then executed if the ransoms are unpaid. Young people get sucked into the drug mafia for easy money and luxuries, unable to ever get out--alive.
"Love does a lot, money everything. Making it is like eating nachos. Once you start, you can't stop until the bowl is empty. And then you order more."
The novel begins slow paced, focused on Riordan's internal life and thoughts, but rises to an action climax worthy of a thriller. The resolution comes suddenly and may leave readers unsatisfied. I found it profound, but then I am coming from a background familiar with theology and faith issues, and the symbolism of Riordan's choice resonates with me.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Some Rise by Sin
Philip Caputo
Henry Holt & Co
$28 hardcover
ISBN: 9781627794749

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nancy Goes to College: Greeks, Freaks, and GDIs

I have not thought about my freshman year at college for decades. Recreating the year from diaries and photos, and probing a few friends, brought revelations. 

Mr. Botens told my freshman English class in fall of 1966 that we are three people: the person you were in the past, the person you are now this minute, and the person you will and want to become in the future. During my freshman college year I was making very important decisions about the kind of woman I wanted to become.

Adrian Freshman yearbook photo
August, 1970, I arrived at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan and moved into the second floor of Estes Hall. It was the dorm I had seen on my tour and had liked so well. As I unpacked the floral fabric suitcases I had received as a graduation gift, I was unpacking my past, a wardrobe and mementos from high school.
Carillon tower, Adrian College
The new album Crosby Stills Nash and Young  was blasting out of a men's dorm window near the quad where guys were always playing Frisbee. To this day, that music brings back the heady sounds of late summer, the joy of being young and on the cusp of new adventure. This year was a perpetual roller coaster of new experiences and new people.
Adrian College
Adrian College, with only 1,500 students, was half the size of Kimball High. Greek societies were important on campus, dorms were segregated, and girls had curfews. It was like living in the 50s.

There were four Kimball girls there: Me, Lynn Martin, Nancy Briggs, and Jan McDonald. Except for Lynn I rarely ran into any of them. Also, I knew a boy from my church and Sunday School class.

Lynn Martin
Nancy Briggs
Jan McDonald
Also in Estes Hall was my old friend Lynn Martin who was rooming with Marti from Redford.

My roommate Gloria was an extrovert and quickly made friends. I tagged along. She even organized 'dinner parties' which we jointly prepared in the dorm basement kitchen.

Our dorm room. I see my drawing on the lower left, art by my boyfriend,
 my lighted mirror and my guitar.

Our dorm room. The Love Story poster from my boyfriend.
When Gloria decided to run for class secretary she enlisted everyone in her campaign. She had posters made which we helped to hang in the cafeteria.

Me and Lynn, Adrian cafeteria

Lynn on the right, me on the left. Steve in the center
Working on Gloria's campaign.
I became friends with another Estes Hall girl, Elaine, and her high school boyfriend Tim. Elaine played the violin and mandolin. One night she used her Mary Kay cosmetics and gave me a makeover. Tim was in Phi Mu Alpha, a music fraternity, and I got to know many his brothers. For some reason we called him 'Uncle Tim' and his frat brothers were all 'Uncle' to me.

Gloria and Elaine
Tim and me
I took Eastern Civ because I already had a good basis in Western Civ  from Kimball from my Ancient and Medieval History and Modern History classes. I struggled with Freshman Composition and Lit. because of my lousy spelling and lack of skill in non-creative writing. Introduction to Philosophy was disappointing. It was all logic and not like what we had studied in Mr. Boten's Western Lit class.

I looked forward to Environmental Biology, having enjoyed Mr. Gasiorowski's high school class. Professor Husband was a great teacher. The class was held in a lecture hall for 100 students.

I sat next to Sendy whose father was a professor at Adrian. One day she told me she knew traditional Chinese palm reading and asked to read my palm. She said I had tapered, narrow fingers, which was unusual; I thought it because I had played piano since I was eight. Sendy said I would have a smooth life, have 'love affairs' but fall in love only once, that I would not have much of a career but I would have three children, and I live into my 80s before I had health problems. She also said I was intelligent but not an A student. I never had those three kids. I never had a real career. I did get A grades eventually. I'm still waiting to see about the long life.

Gym was required. I was OK at archery but lousy at volleyball. Then I tried Folk Dancing. My first partner was an artist--my type, I thought. I had a mad crush on him. Over the year we became friendly but not really friends. My second dance partner was a quiet, tall mountain of a man who was light on his feet and a better dancer than me!

Jim with his Smile pin
That fall I saw an ad in a magazine for Smile face pins and ordered them. I gave one to each new friend I made. I called it my 'People Collecting Club.' I gave out twenty pins over the year. By spring, the yellow Smiley face image could be found on sale everywhere. I was ahead of the curve!
The original order form for Smile face stuff
Over the next years people gave me all kinds of Smile face items.

I believe this year Adrian had seven African American students. Adrian was created by Asa Mahan, the first president of Oberlin College. He was an abolitionist involved in the Underground Railroad. Adrian now houses The Sojourner Truth Technical Training Center and digital archive on the Underground Railroad. I thought it was sad there was so little diversity on campus.
Friends finding out how many can fit into the Estes Hall phone booth

My parents' Halloween costumes 
At Thanksgiving break my old boyfriend came to visit my family with his wife and baby. I was very glad to be where I was instead of married with a kid. I went on a date with the boy I sometimes dated.
I am with my old boyfriend's baby.
I am wearing a wig, which were popular, and a peace dove button.
Jim few into town to visit me for a weekend. We had been writing all fall and he hoped to cement our relationship. His folks did not support his coming and I tried to dissuade him from coming. Dad took Jim, Tom, and me to Roselawn Cemetery at 12 MI in Berkley to fed the ducks at the pond there. I bet we are the only family that regularly went to the cemetery for fun!

I sang some Leonard Cohen songs I had learned including "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye." Jim became angry and asked if I was trying to tell him something. He had brought records to share with me. We were sitting on the floor in my living room listening on the high fi, the records scattered across the floor. My brother walked through the room near the records and Jim yelled a warning at him not to step on them. His response seemed unjustified. These flashes of petulance resulted in my realizing we had no future.

That fall The Association and Josh White Jr. performed on campus.

Marti, a lifelong United Methodist, took me to a communion chapel service before Christmas break. I was Episcopal and the United Methodist service was very different; I had a negative 'culture shock' first reaction.
Marti Boynton
At Christmas, I had a party with Kimball friends and my new friends Marti and Sam from Adrian. My friend since Jane Addams Jr High and fellow Girls Choir member Peggy D. and I played guitar. I also went on a date with the boy I sometimes saw.
Playing my guitar at the Christmas party
Second semester brought changes. Girls went out for Rush Week to choose sororities, including my roommate Gloria. She moved out to room with a sorority sister. Lynn and Marti parted ways and Marti became my roommate.
Marti in Estes Hall common area
I had decided to be a GDI--God Damned Independent--and not join a sorority. I did not like the exclusivity. I wanted to have friends from all kinds of backgrounds like I had at Kimball.
second semester ID
I was in the college choir, singing second alto. Marti was also in choir. Our concert piece was The Carmina Burana. We sang the opening piece O Fortuna in chapel!

I am front row center,
I was also was in the required Comp part two, Philosophy of Religion, Historical Geology, and Intro to History.

I loved Historical Geology class. In March the class went to a limestone quarry in Ohio to look for fossils. I loved rock collecting and thought it was great fun. It was a beautiful day. I wrote, "We all separate, diligently, eagerly, clawing at the rocks and crumbling rubble, coming up with brachiopods, trilobites, corals, and dirt, dust, and more dirt." I lost my boot heel in the mud.

That evening a friend, Tom, asked me to walk with him to the Spanish Inn in Adrian. I had never eaten Mexican food before coming to Adrian. The first time I saw tacos on the lunch tray I had no idea how to eat them. We walked across the College Street bridge talking about college and poetry. He ordered new food for me to try.

With Marti I made friends different from those I met through Gloria. George, Jack, Jim, and Dick and Marti and I had a lot of fun together, eating meals together in the cafeteria and hanging at the Pub. I taught lessons in Sugar Drawing. Basically, you pour the sugar out from the packets onto the table, and run your finger through it to draw. What a waste.
Jack, Marti and me at the Pizza Bucket in Adrian

Lynn, George, and Marti at Estes Hall
One day during lunch the guys threw sugar packets at Marti. When we rose to leave, George quietly picked up all the packets and put them back. I was very impressed and declared forever more the day be celebrated in his honor. Marti still remembers to celebrate George Quay Day. On February 21, 1971, George told me about meeting a girl back home, Nancy Hemmings. She would become his wife.
Jim playing in the student lounge
Like many Adrian students, most weekends Marti went home. I spent a lot of time in the library, reading Greek plays and the poetry of T.S. Eliot. I noted reading Art and Reality by Joyce Cary, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, The Idiot by Dostoyevsky, Hawaii by Michener, and Beck: A Book by John Updike. I mention seeing the movie Catch 22 on campus. Looking at my grades this year, I should have been studying and not free reading!

I also spent a lot of time at the Pub, drinking coffee and reading. I had the idea that a book would magically attract 'the right sort'. The Pub had barrel chairs and tables, pinball machines, and a jukebox. The soda bar sold light refreshments including the first bagels and cream cheese I had ever seen.

People would sit down at the table with me to talk. One weekend Ed, a 'pinball wizard', sat down with me. He was joined by Chris who had long hair and a maxi coat. Chris invited me to come to his parties at his off-campus pad. Ed shook his head, warning me I would not like it. I was so naive I had no idea that these 'parties' were not like the ones my family held!

Chris was also in my philosophy class. He started calling me and we dated for a while. His friends thought that I was too straight and would pull him away from hosting parties. My friends worried that he would 'corrupt me.'

He took me home to visit and I met his mom. Something in him wanted to be saved, but then he'd try to persuade me to change who I was. He was interesting and different, played piano and guitar and had a faith in God, but I knew he was not right for me. I would not change who I was and he did not want to change either. Later he went out with Lynn and liked her, but she liked another boy.

I am wearing a top from Finland
I wrote that Jack and I went to the spring dance with Jim and George and their dates. It was completely friendly.
I am goofing off, playing Cousin It

I was thrilled when the college literary magazine accepted and published my poem The Remodeled Temple. The poem was inspired by my family trip to Niagara Falls the previous year when I saw the yellow foam from phosphate pollution.
Niagara flows over the jutting escarpment
anciently pushed upwards by monstrous
inward powers generated from below--
a long forgotten strength.
The mist rises like steam from a hot bath,
like rain...falling upwards
in billowing clouds of opaque moisture.
Water tumbles white bubbles at the foot,
and foaming, floating, spreading to the river's boundary,
creeps the current born brown-yellow scum.
Where once nature held a holy and secret temple
to the gods, in the midst of this, their handiwork,
celebrating with glorious roaring its own beauty,
man now divides with concrete
and steel-skeletoned buildings,
and populates the shore continually,
people holding cameras and ticket stubs
and souvenirs and pride ("I was here")
and pollutes the waters with his
competent, advanced, scientific, civilized
George and I flew kites on campus between Mahon and Dawson Hall. The kites got tangled up and kids stopped by to help, including a seven-year-old boy who made plans to met us the next day for more kite flying in the IM field. Lots of local kids hung around campus.

Jim had been depressed but now wrote that he had found a 'replacement' for me and I was glad. He also asked me to keep writing to him. A few weeks later he called because I had not sent any letters. A guy was waiting for me in the lobby to go see Tora Tora Tora and I did not have time to talk. (That was one boring movie.)

Over spring break I attended my home church, went to Great Scott and saw the Kimball boy I knew who worked there, and discovered that my first crush Mike was back on the block. He was as cute as ever and I was still too shy to talk to him. My brother and his brother became friends. Sam and Marti came to visit me.

A little-known singer, John Denver, performed at the college that spring. His song Leaving on a Jet Plane had been recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now he was trying to make it singing his own songs. After the concert, several of my People Collecting Club members and I went backstage to give him a smile pin.

Another May trip back home I went to Barney's in the morning and that afternoon saw my grandfather Ramer in the hospital. It must have been when he had his second heart attack. The next day, Sam and Marti and I went to Kensington Nature Park and "untangled fishing line." That evening we went to the Raven Gallery. On the way home, I got pensive and despaired, wondering if I should become a 'freak' since it seemed the all the creative people were. Sam asked Marti if I got that way often.

May 3, 1971, I wrote about man's imperfection and the resulting hypocrisy. "Man desires the love and esteem of his fellow men, but finds his faults only merit their hatred and contempt," I noted Pascal wrote in his Pensees.

I was determined that my "reach exceed my grasp" in trying to be better.

"We try to make ourselves helpful, useful; we try to reach in our bumbling way. We can't always see--if sometimes we're blind, well, what can we say? Admit the fact, try harder. We know we'll never reach perfection. God knows, he made us imperfect, yet we insist on trying our hand at it. No one can please all of the people. No one man can be universally loved, accepted, liked. I must and do take my enemies as inevitable. It makes me sad and guilty and forces me to take another look at myself--detect flaws to be changed. But I am confident that I am on the right track, I have made friends."

In early May when I was in the Pub a boy named Jim sat down with me. I did not care for him; he was a horrible flirt. Really, he had the worse lines ever. He said I'd make a 'good minister's wife,' which was the last thing on my mind. Then he was joined by a boy who had his head in a music score, waving his hands in the air. Gary was in conducting class and was just given the music he was to conduct for his final. I perked up, for it was rare to meet someone who liked classical music.

Jim and Gary went to Ohio that weekend to investigate a seminary. On Monday I had a sore throat and went to the school doctor; he said I had strep throat and perhaps mono. I was on painkillers and was unable to sing in the spring concert. It didn't keep me bedridden. I was at the Pub and hanging out. On Wednesday a bunch of us 'went raving' in Gary's VW, driving down the dark country roads.

Gary and I were getting to know each other. One of Gary's friends, Gwen, asked how I felt about him. I liked him. Elaine thought she should have met Gary first because she thought they were better suited for each other! Since Gary and Tim were both in Phi Mu Alpha it is surprising they had not met already.

Over Memorial Day weekend Gary took me to his home. His family made their annual trip to the cemetery and I waited while they cleared the grave sites and left flowers. His mom had packed baloney and butter sandwiches to eat for lunch. I hated butter on sandwiches. Apparently, our families had one thing in common: they believed in taking their kids' friends to the cemetery!

One Saturday night I woke up, hearing voices. Several drunk boys were outside my dorm window, trying to climb up to see a girl on the second floor. Usually, a girl would prop open the side door so a boy could sneak in!

Two ATO frats were killed in a drunk driving accident on May 22.

Sam and Marti broke up, then reunited. Elaine and Tim broke up. She had met a boy while visiting home.

Gary was taking summer school classes because he couldn't get work at GM for the summer. That meant he would graduate a semester early. I was going home for the summer. As we got to know each other over those two weeks I forgot about all those other boys. Gary seemed about perfect.

School ended and I returned home. I visited old friends. My family went to my Uncle Dave's home for dinner. We had ice cream at Howard Johnsons. I visited the McNab family.

I missed Gary. Then on June 1, there was a knock on the door and a VW parked out front. Gary had stopped by on his way from Grand Blanc to Ohio. He would stop by again on his way back. Mom liked him. When he returned, Sam and Marti and Gary and I went to the Detroit Zoo.

Over summer Gary would spend many weekends at my home.