The Monday Book (aka, the Guilty Pleasures of a Bookseller)

nannieOk, so I have to let you in on a secret. I love the Dear America girl diary books published by Scholastic. Each one is from an American history period or place of significance – the Revolutionary War, Colonial Jamestown, Quaker New England, the Civil War in Virginia, a westbound wagon train of Italian immigrants. They all have a particular culture and time period to evoke. I think the most recent was the 1960s, and in American  diaries, the farthest back is Jamestown.

They’re fun. They take about an hour to read. They are full of historic information with facts stuffed around the edges. They’re practically formulaic. I just love them.

My four favorites are marked from the list below (which was copied from Wikipedia, and to my delight I find I haven’t read two of these, so I have a few more discoveries to make). Most of the girls in the diaries are representative rather than actual people. One or two of them use actual names from historical documents, but beyond that are fiction. I don’t think any of them represent actual events of real people with historic documentation, more the epoch of the time.

For those who grew up on Nancy Drew, and remember the perfect grammar and manners and decision making of girls from her deportment, you’ll enjoy these books. These are real girls, with good and bad angles to their personalities and happy and sad adventures in their lives. I cried to hard during My Heart is in the Ground, I had to hide from bookshop customers.

Treat yourself to an adventure, and check a few out. Male or female, young or old, they are great reads. And good entries into difficult points of history, reduced to statistics rather than stories. Enjoy!

A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620

The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777

When Will This Cruel War Be Over?: The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson, Gordonsville, Virginia, 1864

A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847

So Far from Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1865

***West to a Land of Plenty: The Diary of Teresa Angelino Viscardi, New York to Idaho Territory, 1883

Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903

***Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763

Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, RMS Titanic, 1912

A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence, Gonzales, Texas, 1836

***My Heart Is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880

The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West, Utah Territory, 1868

A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin, Fenwick Island, Delaware, 1861

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864

A Coal Miner’s Bride: The Diary of Anetka Kaminska, Lattimer, Pennsylvania, 1896

Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North, Chicago, Illinois, 1919

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss, Vienna, Austria to New York, 1938

My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York, 1941

Valley of the Moon: The Diary Of Maria Rosalia de Milagros, Sonoma Valley, Alta California, 1846

Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory, 1849

Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932

Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii, 1941

My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher, Broken Bow, Nebraska, 1881

***Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Diary of Bess Brennan, Perkins School for the Blind, 1932

Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards, Dalhart, Texas, 1935

When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer, New York City to the Western Front, 1917

Land of the Buffalo Bones: The Diary of Mary Ann Elizabeth Rodgers, an English Girl in Minnesota, New Yeovil, Minnesota, 1873

Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, Green Marsh, Massachusetts, 1774

All the Stars in the Sky: The Santa Fe Trail Diary of Florrie Mack Ryder, The Santa Fe Trail, 1848

Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl, New York Colony, 1763

I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1691

Hear My Sorrow: The Diary of Angela Denoto, a Shirtwaist Worker, New York City, 1909



Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Hunger Games, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction


Jack and I are headed out to emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Elizabethton, TN this weekend. Busy and running about, I offer in place of a hand-written blog this LOVELY piece of news.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES ARE THRIVING!!!! Click the link to read all about it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Coming Up, Rushing ‘Round, and all things ‘Twixt and ‘Tween


in which Jack contemplates all that is to be accomplished between now and Thanksgiving…..

It’s that time of year again –  when Wendy and I take a deep breath before diving into the whirl of Fall and early Winter events in and around the bookstore and the country.

Coming up on September 25th and 26th is the 9th annual Big Stone Celtic festival which always means plenty of last minute arranging, checking and panicking. Before that, though, we MC the Sycamore Shoals Celtic festival this weekend over in Elizabethton and that’s much more relaxing and an opportunity to re-connect with old friends. The weekend between, we will be heading to the On the Same Page literary festival in West Jefferson where I will be singing and Wendy is a guest author.

Just a couple of weeks after Big Stone Celtic is Wendy’s yearly medical conference, Head for the Hills at the gorgeous Breaks Park, where I can relax (but Wendy cannot!).

Then we’ll be into the season of bookstore events: a house concert and traditional foods supper with storyteller Lyn Ford Oct. 30; a Nov. 6 eat with the author event featuring Willie Dalton, who wrote Three Witches in a Small Town;  and as-yet-unscheduled house concerts musicians Jamie Laval, Pete Clark and Ron Short.  We usually try to throw in an autumnal murder mystery,but this year we may have to punt.

A gifted storyteller and author, we remember Lyn most fondly from a house party in Ohio, when she ever so diplomatically persuaded another storyteller NOT to give a demonstration of ‘keening’ after we’d all had a few. We forward to a no less entertaining evening this time around as Lyn will have copies of her Afrilachian Folktales book for sale and signing.

Jamie is an old friend from our time on the staff of Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week. An award winning and very popular exponent of Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton fiddling (not to mention percussive foot tapping!), he will be with us for a full weekend so I can ‘try out’ as one of his guitar accompanists at his house concert.

Pete, from Dunkeld in Scotland, will be touring with accordionist Gregor Lowrie and also staying over a weekend. He is no stranger to Big Stone and will enjoy introducing Gregor to the delights of fishing at Lake Keokee. He has also toured and taught all over the world as the acknowledged expert in the fiddle style of Highland Perthshire.

Ron Short will be joined by Willie Dodson to provide an evening of immersion in the culture and music of this part of Appalachia. Strong connections link the cultures of my homeland of Scotland and this area – stories, songs and fiddle tunes as well as language and attitudes.

Somewhere in between all this we also need to handle the day-to-day requirements of running a retail business, which means relying on friends and neighbors to mind the store – we are eternally grateful to James Ryan, Erin Dalton, and David Hamrick for stepping into the Gap!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THREE LITTLE WORDS by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Ashley-RC-Headshot-1-1A clear, calm, journalistic approach to your own life? Hard to achieve, but Rhodes-Courter did. This memoir is one of those books that isn’t so much about the way it’s written as what it’s written about.

It’s about being a foster child available for adoption (eventually, when somebody noticed and the system got around to it) and winning the adoption lottery, because the parents who adopt you don’t “return” you, even when you put pills in their wine. (Read it; it’s kind of like horror comedy except these were real people coping with the moment.)

The descriptions of how Ashley felt at a young age of course have to come later, so they often have an adult spin put into a child’s word. Which gives it a kind of awkward clarity that’s really helpful if you’re trying to get to the core of the feelings involved. The chronological development of Ashley’s awareness of what kind of rabbit hole she’s fallen down is really described well, because she’s been there done that and chooses straightforward language to depict the twists, turns, and funhouse mirrors.

It is no small thing to turn a maze into a straight line and still let the readers understand what the maze was like. This is that kind of book – no poetics, no histrionics, just the feelings behind the facts. It’s also built on a moment that pretty much sets the tone for the whole book: those three little words are not, in the first instance, “I love you.” Which gives the memoir a lot of its power to help us understand what it means to learn to trust when you’ve seen so little reason for trusting.

An insightful, thought-provoking book, not overly sentimental and not given to voyeurism, is unusual in the growing field of “I was a……” true life books. Good for Ms. Rhodes-Courter. And good for those who want to understand what this strange, broken world of child “protection” looks like these days.


Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

Angus still Sees Clearly from One Eye

DSCN0455Good morning everyone. My name is Angus and I’m a foster cat at the bookstore. I’m the last one here, and Mom says not to be upset about that; it’s just that people don’t understand black cats. She says someday soon somebody’s gonna walk in here and pick me up and find out what a great snuggler I am and how pretty my purr is, and they’re gonna take me home.

She says it a lot. I think she’s trying to make me feel better.

See, I have this wonky eye. My left eye has kind of a second eyelid over it. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t bother me much, since I don’t have to hunt for food anymore. When I was a little kitten out with the feral colony at the high school, it was kind of a problem, so I used to be pretty skinny. Mom says now I’m “solid.”

But the eyelid is, well, it’s kinda ugly so I know people look at me and then look away. Mom says the way I lift my head to see on that side is endearing, and somebody’s gonna love me for that. Again, I appreciate her efforts to keep my spirits up.

Being a black cat – with just a few white chest hairs – and having a bad eye, and then being about 13 weeks old, it’s like three strikes in a one-strike world, y’know? Is anybody ever gonna love me?

Although, I do have one thing going in my favor. I’m neutered. Didn’t hurt a bit. Worst part was skipping breakfast. Mom took me to the clinic and this pretty little blond nurse held my paw and told me to be brave, and then I got sleepy, and then I woke up and could have all the food I wanted. Nothing to it.

Mom says lots of people are looking for boy cats already neutered, and any day now…..

Yeah, yeah. I don’t mind what kind of home it is. I like dogs and I like other cats, (that’s me with my foster brother playing Boxes) and I LOVE people. Carry me, cuddle me, pull my tail (gently, you know). Just don’t call me late to dinner. I got a lot of love to give, y’know? I just wanna get started.042

So, maybe sometime soon, someone will walk in here like Mom says, and look at me, and I’ll look at them, and that’ll be that. I’ll be ready. I’ve got my favorite jingle toy all picked out – Mom says I can take it with me -and maybe a blankie. I’m ready!!!!



Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Jack does NOT look like Statler OR Waldorf…. no, really……

Jack’s weekly guest blog

We switched from a reliable but slow Verizon phone and internet service to a fast but unknown Comcast service a few months ago. When it works it’s great, but this morning seriously tested my forgiving Quakerish tendencies!

Starting with a phone call from our good friend Jennifer Cutting and leader of The Ocean Band (one of the headliners at Big Stone Celtic in a few weeks) which ended up being carried on over 5 interrupted calls. Then a long standing customer came in to make various orders on-line with ABE Books and that turned into a long and much interrupted process as well !

The blasted router kept switching itself off and on again as if it had a bit-part in ‘The I.T. Crowd’ and causing serious delays in all our work. Of course people phone in orders and reservations to The Second Story Cafe and almost certainly Kelley had as many problems as me.

But I can remember when my family in Scotland were unusual in having a phone at all and no-one except a science fiction writer would have imagined the Internet. Now here we are and we have become dependent on technology. It’s mostly technology we don’t understand and can’t repair – I can also remember when you didn’t have to plug your car into a computer to find out what was wrong with it.

Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon! Or maybe these two muppets had it right!

Statler and Waldorf discover computers

Oliver and JackHey wait, how did that picture get there? We don’t look anything like Statler and Waldorf……



Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

The Monday TV Programs: Rectify and Bloodlines

mermaids 021So here’s the thing, devoted readers: I’ve hit a dry spell on books. I’ve read like four this past week but none of them really set my mind to positive reviewing – and that includes the latest Philippa Gregory, sadly. The White Princess just seemed like a rehash gone bad.


But as I’ve been  whipping out mermaid tails (to cover cat care costs here at the Little Bookstore) I’ve been clocking TV time. We don’t have an actual television machine (a joke from the Dick Van Dyke Show my friend Jenny always brings up) but we do have Netflix. And over the last two weeks I have watched Bloodlines and Rectify.

I had no idea they were still making good, original drama anyplace. There are REAL PEOPLE in these shows, families with motivations, people whose lives circle central themes but who every once in a while just go crazy. You know, REAL people.

The characters on Bloodlines are caught in old family dynamics that never go away. The statute on childhood trauma doesn’t always run out. Four siblings and their parents at a Florida resort find that out the hard way. This show is one long character study, but it feels short because of the swift action, the amazing ways in which people screw up, and the clever ways in which the writers don’t try to tell you what to think; they just lay it all out there in the grey zone. Amazing writing, amazing characters, amazing show.

One flaw: the f-word is so overemployed that when the characters truly get mad, they have nothing left to fire with. In fact, one of the most inspired acting moments comes when the oldest brother is blue-white-heat angry, but all he says is “Oh, okay” because he hasn’t got any f-words left to conjugate. Brilliant acting, but whoever’s writing should tone it down a bit. Noun, adjective, verb, and I think at one point a pronoun? Dude – overused.

Then there’s Rectify. I am still in the midst of it, and it has some harsh moments, and is a bit overly interested in the sexuality of humans, but for the most part it’s a morality play along the same deep lines as Breaking Bad. It’s like a thinking person’s Clockwork Orange. What if… what if somebody did something horrible, or what if they didn’t but got punished anyway? What if all this happened in the South, where morality and Christianity aren’t always kissing cousins? What if the actors were not trying to stereotype anybody, and the writers knew what they were talking about?

You’d have an amazing two-season run of a Georgia-based series about a guy let off Death Row based on new evidence, and how the community and his family reacted to him. And how he reacted to a new life. It’s really compelling. (As an added bonus, while on Death Row the main character was an avid reader, so lots of lit references get thrown into dialogue.)

I’ve made four mermaid tails so far and have two to go, so it’s a good thing I have all of season two on Rectify to watch yet. And yes, I accept that booksellers recommending TV shows is just a little off plumb, but I’m okay with that. Do yourself a favor and check out these Netflix shows.

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch