Summer Reading Recap

Here it finally is – my long-awaited recap of my summer reading plans. In my original post of July 2, I outlined 5-6 books that I wanted to read this summer. Part of my motivation was to participate in the Jones Library Summer Reading Program. I turned in my log on Aug. 27. At that time, I had read five books; three of them were books I mentioned in that original post.

Since summer doesn’t actually end until Sept. 21, I am counting two more books that I read after I turned my log in as part of my summer reading achievement. Seven books in three months is not bad. I am currently reading Alison Lurie’s Love and Friendship. If i finish that in the next 5d days, I will have read eight books for the summer.

Books I Read this Summer

Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents 

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Sara Fitzgerald, Conquering Heroines: How Women Fought Sex Bias at Michigan and Paved the Way for Title IX

Molly Greeley, The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

Amanda Cross, Death in A Tenured Position

Amanda Cross, The Collected Stories of Amanda Cross.

Talia Herbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown

I liked all the books but Greeley’s second book, imagining the life of Anne de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice was not as good as her first book, The Clergyman’s Wife about Charlotte Lucas. I will have a separate review of Herbert’s book next week.

I didn’t read the book about training your cat, Wayward Lives or Butler’s Parable of the Talents.  I hope to read them all, but it will have to be part of my ongoing reading schedule.

 

 

 

 

September 11, Twenty Years Later

I am sorry that I am a day late with my weekly post. We are still dealing with the consequences of our flooded basement. On Labor Day, I discovered that my paper files were all wet. Three file drawers got soaked. One had much of my research for my current project. This has been a traumatic event.

Because today is September 11, I do realize that many things have happened in the past twenty years that are far worse and much more devastating than my flooded basement. In memory of all the lives lost on that terrible day, I am reposting something from September 11, 2009.

September 11 – Eight Years Later

Today is the eighth anniversary of the terrible events of September 11 2001. This is a particularly poignant day because we are in New York. Eight years ago, I had been in New York the day before, September 10, and woke up, at home, on the morning of the 11th to hear my husband’s voice on the answering machine, ” I don’t know if you have heard what happened in New York but my parents are okay.” As everyone knows, September 11 2001 was a picture perfect New York fall day and the 10th was as well. I felt very steeped in my New York roots because I had spent the evening of the 9th reading about the  pending city elections while I waited for my friend who I was visiting to come home.

Today, September 11, 2009, is not a beautiful day. The weather is  very bad, with high winds and heavy downpours. Because of these bad conditions, we have been unable to attend any commemorative event. Many of them were outdoors.

Despite that, since 2001, I have felt that this day should not be like every other day.  Apparently President  Obama and Congress agree with me. In March the federal government designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  I really hope that this takes root and becomes how  people commemorate September 11th in future years.

My thoughts are with all the people who suffered a loss on that fateful day and it is my sincerest wish that nothing like that will ever happen to any person or country again.

More Bad Luck

On Tuesday, while visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Philadelphia, I tripped over their puppy and injured my ankle. We came home the same day and on Wednesday I went to the doctor. It is not broken but soft tissue injuries can take as long to heal as a fracture. As a result I can not skate for four weeks.

Thursday morning we woke up to the worst basement flood we have ever had. The water was in every part of the basement, reaching the bottom shelves of bookcases. On Thursday we worked for eight hours, cleaning and moving things and  there was still more to do.

Today we got up the soaking wet rug and went through all the other wet boxes. Nothing smells’ worse than wet paper. It will be several more days of work to sort through all the stuff, throwing out a lot, I hope. Also, there will probably be things to donate.

 

My run of bad luck has continued since April but will have to break at some point. My original plan for today’s post was to  bring you up to date about my summer reading program. Of course, like everything else in my life, it didn’t go the way I had originally anticipated. Hopefully, I can tell you about it next week.

Computer Trouble, Again

Last week, I had planned on not having my computer for Wednesday into Thursday. The back cover of my laptop needed to be replaced. When the shop started the repair, my screen cracked. This meant I had no computer until Saturday.

This put a big dent in my work schedule and made posting on this blog very difficult. I couldn’t figure out how to post something from my phone. If any of you know how to do that, please let me know.

This unforeseen problem is why I didn’t post last week. Because I am so far behind on working on my book, I have decided not to post this coming Friday either. I plan to resume my regular schedule on Friday September 3.

There have been many times in 2021 that I have felt akin to the biblical Job. Maybe I am cursed or living under a bad sign. The Jewish New York begins September 6th. Hopefully thing will begin looking up.

New Woman

While working on my book this week, I read an article that I wanted to use and cite from. It came from a magazine called New Woman. Because I can get interested in almost anything I googled it and found a October, 1970 New York Times article. The article stated New Woman was going to start publishing in February, 1971. The Times piece had a patronizing tone and was particularly snarky about Mrs. Hermione Miller,  the advertising director, who had been working in New York City since June to find advertisers for the magazine.

Mrs. Miller was “‘the former ad director of Fort Lauderdale’s Pictorial Life magazine. She said she’s found the agencies very interested. But, then, she’s a blonde.” The article ends there.

When I first read that line I had no idea what they were talking about.  I wondered if somehow part of the article had gotten cut off. Thinking about it, I realized that misogyny was so embedded in institutions like the New York Times that they didn’t realize how awful that sentence was. There was no author so some staff writer, mostly probably white and male, made  assumptions about what it meant to be a blonde and, I assume, attractive woman and unabashedly wrote that last line.

It makes me aware that 1970 is really not that far away and, in some ways, not that much has changed. Yesterday’s Times had an article about the Norwegian women’s handball team and the fine they received for refusing to wear bikini bottoms while playing. The Handball federation is now considering changing the rules.

Generally the women’s sports, particularly in the Olympics, that are the most popular feature scantily dressed athletes. Beach volleyball is the best example. This shows that we still live in a world that judges women by their looks.

Although I thought this was an important topic for the blog, I know that I have to control my insatiable curiosity and stay focused on writing my book.

Happy International Beer Day

Today is International Beer Day. To celebrate, here is a roundup of articles about the holiday. The first describes the day and provides a brief history of beer. In 2018 there were 7,450 breweries in the United States. I wonder if that number has decreased due to the pandemic. If you know the answer, please let me know.

The second link profiles seven cities across the world, looking at their top beers, beer festivals and the best places to drink beer. If you are traveling to any of the cities mentioned and like beer, this is a handy list to have.

The third article looks at Singapore beer. The Asian beer imported to America is usually a pale, nondescript lager so I would be excited to try some of the beers mentioned. I would love to go to Singapore and other places in Asia but  it is a very long flight and the time difference is brutal.

Finally, here is a link to a post I wrote in 2016 when we were traveling in Paris and London. On that trip we drank a lot of Leffe blond beer. Once we were home it was hard to get. Apparently, a liquor store near me now sells it. I am going to get a six-pack and drink one tonight to celebrate International Beer Day.

Cheers!

Michigan Beer

I recently finished reading a book about sex discrimination at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. The same day, a news item about craft brewing in Michigan appeared in my Google alerts. You can read that here.

Stroh’s was Michigan’s largest brewer. Here are some excerpt’s from Brewing Battles about that brewery.

Detroit had thirty-three breweries in 1890. Stroh’s was the most famous and long lived; the owners were descendants of Germans who had been brewing since 1775. By selling ice cream as well as beer it existed as an independent brewery until 1999.[1]

One of the most significant transactions which indicated that brewing was moving firmly away from its nineteenth century heritage occurred on June 10 1982, when the Stroh Brewing Company of Detroit purchased Schlitz. Stroh’s, a long established regional brewery based in Detroit vaulted itself into the first tier of the industry by acquiring Schlitz, one of the country’s largest brewers. Donald Shea, a vice-president of the USBA at the time of this acquisition, assessed the deal and its implication for the industry as “constant concentration within the industry, and as that happened, more and more larger breweries were building up their own shops.”[2]

Competition in the industry continued unabated even while brewing organizations sought reductions in taxes and campaigned against various neo-temperance initiatives. In 1996, Stroh’s continued its ascent into the top tier by purchasing Heileman Brewing. Heileman had made a run at achieving top tier status in the 1980s, but the Justice Department had halted its program of aggressive acquisitions. Russell Cleary, the son-in-law of Ray Kumm and his successor, spearheaded the expansion of the company. Stalled, the company became vulnerable; 1987 Alan Bond, an Australian investor, purchased the nation’s fourth largest brewer. In 1992, Bond went to jail for fraud in connection with a deal to save an Australian bank.[3]

In the 1980s Heileman brewed many different brands of beer including Old Style, its original product, Lone Star, Schmidt, and Carling Black Label. The company was responsible for forty percent of all the new brands in the decade.[4]

In 1991, Heileman developed yet another new product, Power Master, which was a malt liquor with 5.9 percent alcohol; most malt liquors contained 5.5 percent, regular beer 3.5 percent. African-Americans and Hispanics were the core market for malt liquors. Heileman’s marketing featured a young black man. The tagline was “bold, not harsh.” African-American political and community leaders objected to the beer and its marketing. Eventually BATF intervened and prohibited the company from marketing Power Master. The agency felt the name was a subtle attempt to convey the strength of the beer to the public.[5] Heileman’s marketing struggles indicated how far the brewing industry had come from the self-regulation policies that they had pursued from the 1930s on.

The USBA had always stressed restraint in marketing. The Nebraska plan that brewers developed during Repeal was the cornerstone of their approach. Increased competition in the industry and the diminished influence of the USBA led individual brewers to be bolder in their advertising. The specter of Prohibition had diminished.

In 1996, Stroh’s, planning to buy Heileman, was the country’s fourth largest brewer. Coors, in third place, had 10.1 percent of the market. Stroh’s and Heileman’s combined market share would be a little over nine percent. Stroh Brewing Company had been in existence for 149 years; in 1999 the company sold its brands to Miller and Pabst. Pabst got Schlitz. This sale marked the completion of forty years of consolidation of the brewing industry. The dismantling of Stroh, which employed 2,800 people, gave Miller and Anheuser–Busch seventy per cent of the market.[6]

 

[1] William H. Mulligan, “Stroh Brewing Company,” in Blocker et al., Encyclopedia, 598-600; Downard, Dictionary, 56-57, 185-186.

[2] “Shakeout in the Brewing Industry”; Shea interview, 2005.

[3] “Heileman’s Aggressive Style,” New York Times, August 15, 1979, D1; “Alan Bond Gets Jail in Australia,” New York Times, May 30, 1992, 35; Bob Skilnick, “Heileman, G., Brewing Company,” in Blocker et. al, Encyclopedia, 292-293.

[4] Philip E. Ross, “Bid for Heileman Spurs Stock,” New York Times, September 5, 1987, 31.

[5] Anthony Ramirez, “U.S. Is Challenging New Heileman Label,” New York Times, June 21, 1991, D15; “The Threat of Power Master,” New York Times, July 1, 1991, A12; “Heileman Told It Can’t Use the Power Master Name,” New York Times, July 2, 1991, D6; Kurt Eichenwald, “U.S. Rescinds Approval of A Malt Liquor,” New York Times, July 4, 1991, D3.

[6] Robyn Meredith, “Stroh to Buy Heileman in Big Brewery Deal,” New York Times, Match 1, 1996, D2; “Last call: Detroit-based Stroh Brewery will sell beer brands to Pabst, Miller,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 9, 1999, 3D http://www.elibrary.com/education (accessed January 23, 2001).

© Copyright, Amy Mittelman 2021

 

Book Review: The Equivalents

I finished the book The Equivalents while we were in Florida. it is the first of the books I plan to read for my summer reading. You can read about that here. The book, by Maggie Doherty, tells the story of five women who were in the first two groups of Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute.

Mary Bunting,  president of Radcliffe College from 1960 to 1972, established the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study as a way to provide opportunities for married women with children who may have delayed or stopped their study or profession because of  marriage and children. Maggie Doherty  chose to focus her book on five women who all were accepted to the Radcliffe Institute but did not have advanced degrees. They received the term. “Equivalents” because they did not have advanced degrees but their experiences as writers, poets and artists counted as equivalent. to advanced degrees.

The women were the poets, Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, the writer Tillie Olsen who started in the second year,  the artist Barbara Swan and the sculptress, Marianna Pineda. Sexton and  Kumin had a relationship that began before their time together at the Institute, 1961-1963, and lasted until Sexton’s suicide in 1974.

The parts of the book where Doherty explores the lives of her five main characters and their relationships while they are at the Institute are well-written; this is the strongest part of the book.

During the first few years of the Institute, all of the Fellows were white. Although the story of the five “equivalents”  is the main part of the book, she tries to place their experiences within a larger societal context. To do this she introduces other characters, such as Alice Walkers, Institute Fellow 1966-1968, so Doherty can talk about issues such as race which her main actors didn’t experience.

Alice Walker is a compelling figure but Doherty should have written about her with more nuance. I find it problematic that she does not even mention Walker’s later career and controversies over her perceived anti-Semitism. A few sentences would have sufficed.

Doherty tries to position the women as precursors to second wave feminism. Although the bond between the five “equivalents” was very strong with elements of later consciousness raising sessions, I feel this is overstated. None of the women expressed overtly feminist ideas while they were at the Institute.

I read the book because the topic interests me and has something to do with what I’m currently writing about in my own manuscript. Because I am taking the PVWW writing class I read the book both for what it said about these women who were in the first group of the Radcliffe Institute and also how it is written, what kind of techniques and craft skills she used in writing it. Doherty does a good job with scene setting and uses quotations judiciously (both craft techniques)

I enjoyed the book and it did give me ideas about how to strengthen scenes and reduce my use of quotes, by putting more things into my own words. I am off to a good start with my summer reading. If any one else has a summer reading plan, I would love to hear about it.

Beaches

On Tuesday, I returned from ten days in Florida. Over the July 4th weekend my sons and daughter-in-law  were there as well. On July 4th we all took a shuttle and went to the private beach owned by the hotel we were staying at.

The rest of the time, my husband and I walked to a public beach about one mile away. All this beach going make me reflect on the tortuous history of Jim Crow and Florida beaches.  In my current manuscript I write about attempts in the 1960s to de-segregate  the public accommodations in St. Augustine, Florida. Here is an excerpt from the first draft of the sixth chapter of my book.

St. Augustine, Florida was one of the country’s most segregated cities. Beginning in 1960, it was the site of many civil rights demonstrations including students from Flagler Memorial College sitting in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.

1965 was the 400th anniversary of St. Augustine. In preparation for the planned celebration, in 1963 the city embarked on a restoration of its downtown buildings. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was scheduled to attend the dedication ceremony for the first restored building. All the festivities were for whites only. His advisors became concerned about him attending a segregated event. The organizing committee set aside two tables in a dining alcove for local African Americans. Blacks had pushed for city officials to meet with civil rights activists as part of the festivities. This did not happen.[1]

Following this event, the activists started picketing segregated local businesses. The uptick in civil rights action led the Klu Klux Klan to descend on St. Augustine. The Klan embarked on a reign of terror. “Homes were shot up, cars set on fire, people were beaten, jobs were lost, jail sentences handed out and threats made.”[2]

The situation was becoming intractable; St. Augustine civil rights activists sought help from Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The activists sought assistance in early 1964; at the same time the U.S. Senate was engaged in the longest filibuster that body had ever seen over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[3]

Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders sought an end to the filibuster and passage of the bill. They chose St. Augustine as a case study in the law’s necessity. Part of the proposed legislation dealt with segregated hotels, motels, and restaurants. St Augustine, a tourism site, had plenty of these establishments.[4]

Local activists choose Easter, 1964 to begin their campaign. They called for college students to spend spring break in St. Augustine; not for a vacation but to participate in sit ins and demonstrations. Four prominent Boston women came as well. When Mrs. Esther Burgess, the wife of the first black elected diocesan bishop of the Episcopal church and Mrs. Mary Peabody, mother of the Governor of Massachusetts, were arrested, the tension in St. Augustine became a national story.[5]

Mary Peabody’s arrest made it very likely that Martin Luther King would, at some point, arrive in St. Augustine.[6] He came to St. Augustine in early June, renting a beach front cottage, which was vandalized and burnt twice.[7]

On June 11, Martin Luther King, Jr. Ralph Abernathy, and eight other civil rights activists attempted to enter the Monson Motor Lodge, St. Augustine, Florida. James Brock, the motel manager stopped them at the entrance. The group refused to leave. Brock called the police who also asked King and the others to leave. They still refused and were arrested. They did not post bail and were placed in the St. Johns country jail.[8]

Two days later, Sarah Patton Boyle led a group of civil rights activists seeking service at a St. Augustine restaurant. They were all arrested. The Tampa Tribune described Boyle as the “wife of a University of Virginia professor (and the) great granddaughter of a Virginia governor and second cousin of the late General George S. Patton.[9]

After spending three nights in jail Patty, and other “white integrationists” including Reverend William England, Boston University chaplain were released on bond.[10] She was proud of being arrested. “I would rather have the voice of a civil rights jailbird than the voice of a mockingbird. That is why I announce with pride that I was one of those who went to jail for freedom in St. Augustine …. “My heartaches that such drastic action as going to jail is necessary to make America what she claims to be–a land where there is freedom and justice for all. But since it is necessary, I am proud to take full integrationist part in it. I regard my arrest as an honorary degree in the struggle to implement the principles in which I so deeply believe.”[11]

[1] https://civilrights.flagler.edu/digital/collection/p16000coll11/id/4/rec/1 Accessed 10 13 2020

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Warren, Dan

[7] Florida Room: Battle for St. Augustine 1964: Public Record and Personal Recollection Author(s): Claudia S. Slate Source: The Florida Historical Quarterly, Spring, 2006, Vol. 84, No. 4 (Spring, 2006), pp. 541-568.

[8] Tampa Tribune, June 12, 1964, pg. 1.

[9] Tampa Tribune, June 14, 1964, pg. 2.

[10] Tampa Tribune, June 17, 1964, pg. 1

[11] https://civilrights.flagler.edu/digital/collection/p16000coll11/id/4/rec/1

©Copyright Amy Mittelman 2021. Do Not Reproduce without Author’s Permission

Summer Reading

For several years, pre-Pandemic, I have participated in summer reading challenges hosted by the Jones Library. Usually you are supposed to read, at least, three books, and write a review of one. Once you turn that information in, you get a gift card to a local retail or dining institution.

In the past, the library also had a bingo game connected to the theme for the year’s summer reading challenge. Playing that meant you read three more books, for a total of six,  and had a better chance of winning a more elaborate prize.

Obviously, last year, the library didn’t do anything for summer reading or anything else. This year, they are doing an Adult Summer Reading Program; the theme is Tails  & Tales. It started yesterday and continues until August 27th.

I went today and picked up the material for the Jones Library program and a few of the books they suggest are entrancing. One,  a nonfiction book, The Trainable Cat A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis is particularly appealing because, eventually, we are going to get a new cat to replace Bella, our cat who we had for eighteen years. Early this summer we had to put her down.  If possible, I would like to get a short haired cat who we keep indoors and we don’t have to declaw. Maybe the book would help us have a cat who doesn’t starch.

My plan for my own summer reading is to finish five books; six if I add the cat book. The books are Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents which I want to read because it is about the early years of the Bunting Institute , a program of continuing education for women at Radcliffe College. The chapter of my book that I am currently working deals with similar programs developed at various academic institutions in the post World War Two period.

For my Jane Austen book club meeting in August I am reading Zadie Smith’s, White Teeth. Also Austen themed, I will be reading, The Heiress by Mollie Greeley. I read her book, The Clergyman’s Wife which is one of my favorite Jane Austen retellings. I wrote a review of it which you can read here.

One of the people in my year long manuscript class suggested I read Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidya Hartman. She thinks it will be a good model for how to structure my  book.

The final book I plan on completing before August 27th is Octavia Butler’s, Parable of the Talents. I just finished reading her Parable of the Sower and it was a great book; very dark but very prescient. Written in the 1990s, the novel starts in 2022, a year from now. It tackles issues of race, climate change, loss of our democracy and  concepts of God and organized religion. These are all issues we are currently grappling with. I highly recommend it.

To complete all of these books by the end of August, I will have to read about 36 or 37 pages  a day. I think that is very doable. If I add in the cat book, it will raise my daily reading page count to about 43 pages a day which I still fell is doable. I will keep you posted about my progress.

I will not have a blog post next week. I will resume my regular schedule on July 16th. Have a nice two weeks.