These Shallow Graves

by Jennifer Donnelly

I was at a retirement party for a local teen librarian and this book was propped up in the display area.

I can be a sucker for a great New York story.

I love this story and it was a page turner from beginning to end. This video sums it up nicely:

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Love simply is.

It took me a while to read Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portbello. The story is a murder mystery with mystical interweavings. The Witch asks the question: what truly is a witch? Is someone a witch because of another person or because they feel more of something than everyone else?

There are questions about identity, how we create identity, how we change our identity and our identity is different to each person we have in our lives. The main protagonist, Athena, means different things to different people. Athena inspires crowds who must be dispersed.

How do people see us?

Why be a traitor?

So maybe I’ve walked or driven over the location of the house where Benedict Arnold owned in New Haven, CT. Maybe I did the same of the house where he lived before New Haven. Why would people mark the location of a house of a man who is the most vilified of the American Revolution?

Why did Benedict Arnold become a traitor? History tends to gloss over this question. I had a client who was telling me about learning about Arnold in class. After they told me what he had been learning, I asked if they had discussed Arnold living in New Haven and what he did for the Continental Army before his betrayal?

Guess what answer I got?

Betrayal doesn’t happen overnight. Keep that in mind.

Read The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

Thomas Hickey

Have you ever heard this name before? I hadn’t until a few days ago.

Perhaps because, unlike John Wilkes Booth, his plan (or was it?) didn’t succeed to kill George Washington.

The plot Hickey was involved in happened even before the Declaration of Independence was written. There were many others who were involved, some of whom were Washington’s own Life Guards, yet Hickey has the notoriety of being the person hung in the first public execution for treason against America.

Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch walk through the timeline of the plot to assinate George Washington step-by-step in their book The First Conspiracy.

What history has recorded and left behind, Hickey was the fall guy, the example. Washington made the call for a swift execution and Hickey was the most named and thereby became the example.

I know I’ve walked near, or maybe on, the spot where Hickey was executed. So have millions of others. Another piece of American history brought to light.

Spit like a Tommy Gun

Dear Eunice Hunton Carter,

I wish I had a chance to meet you and I want to get a copy of the picture from the cover of the book your grandson, Stephen, wrote about you.

The picture of you standing and holding the floor at a Republican convention, refusing to yield, is awesome. The picture is what drew me to the book. You stand out with the white ruffled collar and as you look closer, the dignity and poise become clear. I especially love the finger pointing down, showing that either you aren’t going anywhere or are calling someone to come and speak directly to you. Again, I would have loved to witness that confrontation.

Stephen’s book really struck a chord with me in a way that few books, especially biographies, ever really have. I may not have been there on your level, I don’t foresee myself ever working for a federal prosecutor, but I can only imagine the frustration, disappointment, and criticism you received and experienced. You made your choices. I just wish that you had left more of a personal record like journals and letters. Did you have them and throw them out, burn them, or chose not to keep them? I would love to know what you thought about what happened in your life.

What you thought would be such an inspiration. For women the word “ambition” can still be a dirty word for many different reasons, even among other women . You had it and never hid it and no matter how imperfect you were, I admire that. You never stopped and I admire that as well.

You obtained a position that many would envy to have yet were left with the “women’s issues” that ironically brought down a gangster that seemed not only untouchable, but invincible. This is something not even the best script writers can come up with.

I can only begin to imagine the sense of mourning and disappointment to want so much and even after giving up so much in time, family, and energy to be passed over it. Again, the reasons for this can only be guessed at. Stephen does an awesome job framing this and working through the possible reasons and rationale behind certain decisions. Yet we will never know the real reasons.

I’ve had my share of working tirelessly for people only to be publicly humiliated and shunted aside. For me this has led to showdowns in parking lots, nasty social media exchanges, nasty phone calls, etc. The story about the tea party made me laugh as I have been in similar situations. How did you handle this? On to Plan B? I know that’s what I would do. Onwards and upwards.

By the way, I went on the Internet and saw pictures of your house on Jumel Terrace. Gorgeous.

Wherever you are, I thank you for the inspiration.

Sincerely,

Angela

Josiah Henson

Growing up in an area where certain people are famous sometimes you forget there’s more to the story than you have heard repeated a million times over. And then you forget you only have so little time in history classes where again, the professors are trying to get in as much as possible.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is well known in Connecticut. Her house in Hartford is right across from Mark Twain’s. Stowe has always been “the little woman who started the great war”.

I’ve tried reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin several times but could never get into it. I think I’ve read almost everything else and then I find the book The Road to Dawn by Jared Brock and my reaction is…..not yet, you haven’t.

Until reading The Road to Dawn, I had never heard about The Key to Uncle Tom. My reaction was: what? There’s more? Lincoln read it as well? When do I get to read it? Stowe is one of my literary and political idols as she was very prolific and stood up for her beliefs. Stowe took her power of words and created ways to reach people and help change the world. It makes sense have would have had a compendium of sources.

I’ve been near, or maybe even passed, where Josiah lived in Maryland and quite possibly Kentucky as well. You go by history all of the time and don’t even realize it. Next time I go, it will be with different eyes.

Josiah never gave up. Dawn always comes.

Spetakkel

Spetakkel appears on page 162 of the book Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien. O’Brien quotes a woman from Kragnes Township in Minnesota. Spetakkel is defined as “rambunctious” in English, yet sounds better in Norwegian. This word was used to describe one of the first well-known and daring female pilots, Florence Klingensmith.

Have you ever heard of Florence Klingensmith? I am going to guess probably not. Neither had I until I read Keith O’Brien’s work. The only other person I had ever heard about in the book was Amelia Earhart.

O’Brien’s book is about the first aviatrixes in the United States beginning in the 1920’s. Earhart’s fame and untimely disappearance in the 1930’s overshadowed all of their lives, deaths, and accomplishments. O’Brien does a magnificent job of bringing them all back to life and the truth of their deaths.

These women accomplished the same and more than some men (sorry, fellas) yet history has forgotten them.