Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Evening Lecture at the Archives and History Library

On September 6, 2011, Robert Beanblossom, district administrator in southern and eastern West Virginia for the state's Division of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Section, will present "History of the West Virginia State Park System" at the Tuesday evening lecture in the Archives and History Library. The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Staff Pick of the Week

Mary's Pick

The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America's Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town by Mark Kurlansky

The bestselling author of Cod, Salt, and The Big Oyster has enthralled readers with his incisive blend of culinary, cultural, and social history. Now, in his most colorful, personal and important book to date, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a disappearing way of life: fishing--how it has thrived in and defined one particular town for centuries, and what its imperiled future means for the rest of the world.

The culture of fishing is vanishing, and consequently, coastal societies are changing in unprecedented ways. The once thriving communities of Rockport, Nantucket, Newport, Mystic, and many other coastal towns from Newfoundland to Florida and along the West Coast have been forced to abandon their roots and become tourist destinations instead. Gloucester, Massachusetts, however, is a rare survivor. The livelihood of America's oldest fishing port has always been rooted in the life and culture of commercial fishing.

The Gloucester story began in 1004 with the arrival of the Vikings. Six hundred years later, Captain John Smith championed the bountiful waters off the coast of Gloucester, convincing new settlers to come to the area and start a new way of life. Gloucester became the most productive fishery in New England, its people prospering from the seemingly endless supply of cod and halibut. With the introduction of a faster fishing boat--the schooner--the industry flourished. In the twentieth century, the arrival of Portuguese, Jews, and Sicilians turned the bustling center into a melting pot. Artists and writers including Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, and T.S. Eliot came to the fishing town and found inspiration.

But the vital life of Gloucester was being threatened. Ominous signs were seen with the development of engine-powered net-dragging vessels in the first decade of the twentieth century. As early as 1911, Gloucester fishermen warned of the dire consequences of this new technology. Since then, these vessels have become even larger and more efficient, and today the resulting overfishing, along with climate change and pollution, portends the extinction of the very species that fishermen depend on to survive, and a way of life special not only to Gloucester but to coastal cities all over the world. And yet, according to Kurlansky, it doesn't have to be this way. Scientists, government regulators, and fishermen are trying to work out complex formulas to keep fishing alive.

Engagingly written and filled with rich history, delicious anecdotes, colorful characters, and local recipes,The Last Fish Tale is Kurlansky's most urgent story, a heartfelt tribute to what he calls "socio-diversity" and a lament that "each culture, each way of life that vanishes, diminishes the richness of civilization."

(synopsis from the publisher)

Friday, August 26, 2011

West Virginia Library Commission Announces the Selection of New Secretary

After a nationwide search, the West Virginia Library Commission has selected Karen Goff, Library Development Director of the WVLC to serve as the new Secretary for the Commission. Goff has been acting as Interim Secretary since the retirement of previous Secretary, J.D. Waggoner, in March of 2011.

Goff earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology in 1969 from the University of Pittsburgh and in 1971, she earned a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, also from the University of Pittsburgh. Goff has been employed by WVLC since 1972, where she began as head of reference services and later operated in several key positions throughout the agency.

After her selection as Secretary, Goff stated, “My entire professional career has been spent at the West Virginia Library Commission. I feel that the knowledge, experience, skills, and relationships gained during this career uniquely equip me to lead the Commission.”

Prior to the announcement, many candidates displayed a valuable knowledge and skill set, however, Goff’s 39-years of experience and positive relationships with state libraries proved a solid foundation for the position while her visions for the future offered the forward thinking needed to continue building collaborations and encouraging libraries to become vital centers in their communities.

Goff is a member of the American Library Association, the Public Library Association, current Chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee of the West Virginia Library Association, and past President and past Secretary of WVLA, Former Editor of West Virginia Libraries, and the Recipient of 1999 Dora Ruth Parks Award for Outstanding Service to Libraries and Librarianship in West Virginia.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Staff Pick of the Week

Pearl Buck in China: Journey to the Good Earth by Hilary Spurling

West Virginia native Pearl S. Buck is the subject of Spurling's (Matisse the Master) new biography.

One of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary Americans, Pearl Buck was the first person to make China accessible to the West.

She recreated the lives of ordinary Chinese people in The Good Earth, an overnight worldwide bestseller in 1932, later a blockbuster movie. Buck went on to become the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Long before anyone else, she foresaw China’s future as a superpower, and she recognized the crucial importance for both countries of China’s building a relationship with the United States. As a teenager she had witnessed the first stirrings of Chinese revolution, and as a young woman she narrowly escaped being killed in the deadly struggle between Chinese Nationalists and the newly formed Communist Party.

Pearl grew up in an imperial China unchanged for thousands of years. She was the child of American missionaries, but she spoke Chinese before she learned English, and her friends were the children of Chinese farmers. She took it for granted that she was Chinese herself until she was eight years old, when the terrorist uprising known as the Boxer Rebellion forced her family to flee for their lives. It was the first of many desperate flights. Flood, famine, drought, bandits, and war formed the background of Pearl’s life in China. "Asia was the real, the actual world," she said, "and my own country became the dreamworld."

Pearl wrote about the realities of the only world she knew in The Good Earth. It was one of the last things she did before being finally forced out of China to settle for the first time in the United States. She was unknown and penniless with a failed marriage behind her, a disabled child to support, no prospects, and no way of telling that The Good Earth would sell tens of millions of copies. It transfixed a whole generation of readers just as Jung Chang’s Wild Swans would do more than half a century later. No Westerner had ever written anything like this before, and no Chinese had either.

Buck was the forerunner of a wave of Chinese Americans from Maxine Hong Kingston to Amy Tan. Until their books began coming out in the last few decades, her novels were unique in that they spoke for ordinary Asian people— "translating my parents to me," said Hong Kingston, "and giving me our ancestry and our habitation." As a phenomenally successful writer and civil-rights campaigner, Buck did more than anyone else in her lifetime to change Western perceptions of China. In a world with its eyes trained on China today, she has much to tell us about what lies behind its astonishing reawakening.

(synopsis from the publisher)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Capitol Reads

August's Capitol Read is Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Equal parts Nathanael West, Damon Runyon and Eudora Welty, Lord of Misrule follows five characters--scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain--through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He'll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices--veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady "gyp" Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off "racetrack financier" Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel's go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone's flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

This week: a recipe and a recommendation.

The recipe is from Bones: Recipes, History & Lore by Jennifer McLagan

Marrow Pudding

(Serves 6)

This recipe is adapted from one in Florence White's Good Things in England. Good quality fresh bread crumbs, preferably from an egg bread or brioche, are essential for this recipe. Slice the bread and trim off the crusts, place in a food processor, and process to coarse crumbs. Be sure to soak the marrow in advance to remove any traces of blood.

8 ounces fresh white bread crumbs (about 3 cups)
2 cups whole milk
3 ounces bone marrow, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 packed cup brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Place the bread crumbs in a bowl. Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then pour over the crumbs. Leave the crumbs to soak for 10 minutes.

2. Stir the marrow and raisins into the bread crumbs. Whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Add to the bread crumbs and mix well. Pour this mixture into the baking dish.

3. Place the baking dish in a larger pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until just firm in the center.

4. Preheat the broiler to high. Sprinkle the top of the pudding with the brown sugar and broil until the sugar melts. Let cool slightly, and serve.

The recommendation is Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and magnificence of the one from her childhood. Hamilton's ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.

Blood, Bones & Butter
follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.

(synopsis from the publisher)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Staff Pick of the Week

Susan's Pick

The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel of Suspense by Nancy Pickard

Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger scours his father’s pasture, looking for helpless newborn calves. Then he makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl, her skin as white as the snow around her. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It is a moment that will forever change his life and the lives of everyone around him. The mysterious dead girl–the “Virgin of Small Plains”–inspires local reverence. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave; some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, word of the legend spreads.

But what really happened in that snow-covered field? Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the Virgin’s body was found, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds? Why do the town’s three most powerful men–Dr. Quentin Reynolds, former sheriff Nathan Shellenberger, and Judge, Tom Newquist–all seem to be hiding the details of that night?

Seventeen years later, when Mitch suddenly returns to Small Plains, simmering tensions come to a head, ghosts that had long slumbered whisper anew, and the secrets that some wish would stay buried rise again from the grave of the Virgin. Abby–never having resolved her feelings for Mitch–is now determined to uncover exactly what happened so many years ago to tear their lives apart.

Three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences in award-winning author Nancy Pickard’s remarkable novel of suspense. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence . . . and the possibility of redemption.

(synopsis from the publisher)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Genealogy Club

Archives and History staff historian Greg Carroll will present "Slaves and Free People of Color in Western Virginia from 1800 to 1860" at the meeting of the Thursday evening Genealogy Club on August 11, 2011. The club will meet from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the West Virginia Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston. Meetings of the Genealogy Club are free and the public is invited to attend.

Carroll will look at the political and legal lives of both slaves and free people of color. Slavery did not exist in western Virginia in anywhere near the numbers that it did in the east. In a few areas, such as the Eastern Panhandle and the Kanawha Valley, slaves were more numerous. The panhandle was primarily an agricultural area having more in common with its eastern neighbors than counties to the west. In the Kanawha Valley, slaves were mainly used in the salt industry and were the first to commercially mine coal in this area. Free people of color were often freed slaves or mixed race people who were slowly being driven from the eastern Virginia counties by oppressive racial laws. This was especially true after Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831. These issues will be discussed and questions are invited.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Staff Pick of the Week

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls. you learn your neighbors' routines: when and if they gargle and brush their teeth; how often they go to the bathroom or shower; whether they snore or cry themselves to sleep. You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain.

You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return to Fort Hood, Texas.

With dazzling skill and astonishing emotional force, Siobhan Fallon explores the insular and emotionally fraught world of an American army base in a time of war. She introduces us to a wife who discovers unsettling secrets when she hacks into her husband's email, and a teenager who disappears with her five-year old brother as their mother fights cancer. There is the soldier who enters into a perilous friendship with an Iraqi female translator, the foreign-born army wife who has tongues wagging over her glamorous clothes and late hours, and the military intelligence officer who plans a secret surveillance mission against his own home.

In gripping, no-nonsense stories that will leave readers shaken, Siobhan Fallon allows us into a world tightly guarded by gates and wire. It is a place where men and women cling to the families they have created as the stress of war threatens to pull them apart.

(synopsis from the publisher)