Local History Vacation Choices
When you can immerse yourself while on vacation, in another world, another time, another place, you truly get away. If while you are there, you find a book that captures part of that otherness, more power to you. Three non fiction books recently fit that bill.
Crazy Horse by Mari Sandoz
On a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore National Monument and all else that could be wrapped into the trip, on the way out, we stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial, in Custer Co., still being sculpted, under construction on privately owned land. The attending museum was one of the most enveloping museums I have been in, with a gift shop including a bookstore. After much deliberation, the book I choose was:
Crazy Horse The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz.
It was a fascinating, but not an easy read. Too many things, too many places, too much history, and too much culture, was new to me, for me to race through it. My background knowledge was sorely lacking. It was a good exercise in how hard new cultures are to absorb, not because of emotional push back, but because background knowledge makes reading and learning so much easier. Thank goodness for the introduction, the forward, and the glossary.
Code Talker Stories by Laura Tohe
On a trip around New Mexico, in Santa Fe, the capitol in Santa Fe Co., the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, both beckoned. The book I finally choose from the New Mexico Museum of Art was:
Code Talker Stories by Laura Tohe.
I knew a bit about the history of the Navajo code talkers during World War II, but reading their stories straightened out some muddled thinking and scrambled information I had gathered over time. Laura Tohe did a nice job of letting each interview stand alone and putting each soldier’s own words in the spotlight. I wanted to know more. I finished the book before we got to Durango.
Stubborn Twig by Lauren Kessler
Visiting Bend, Deschutes Co., Oregon, the landscape is so unexpected, volcanic cone remains, lava rocks everywhere in a high desert, a geology book instead of a local history book seemed imminent for an Oregon trip, but then we went to Portland and stopped at Powell’s Books. Thousands of choices and only three hours to spend choosing. My personal knowledge of Oregon history pretty much concentrated on the Oregon Trail, the lumber industry in the pacific northwest and the growth of Oregon vineyards and winemaking. Finally, I settled on:
Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family by Lauren Kessler.
Choosing a book about a Japanese American family settling in Hood River, Hood River Co. on the Columbia, was unexpected. It was a blend of history, immigration, assimilation, and family. Beginning in 1908, the first couple decades were easy, approaching 1941, my personal foreshadowing was ominous. As expected, reading about the war years was difficult. Interesting was reading about the effects of the war and the relocation camps on different members of the family and how much was not shared with the third generation.
The geographical area of the United States is so vast, it is important to realize how very different our history has evolved. All three of these books do a nice job of examining local history through various lenses, while still being wonderfully readable.