Book Review: Such A Fun Age

I recently read Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The reason I read it is because I had seen an excerpt of a review of the book by JoJo Moyes which said “An amazing debut…A sort of modern Austen-esque take on racism and modern liberal sensibilities…except that description makes it sound far more serious and less clever than it is. [Kiley Reid] has a forensic eye.” 

Because I am a sucker for anything to do with Jane Austen, I decided to read the book. The joke was on me because Such a Fun Age has nothing to do with Jane Austen, neither the style of writing nor the topic of the book.

Such A Fun Age is, on one level, the story of a clash between a 35-year-old white woman, Alix, and a 25-year-old  black woman, Emira. Alix is an influencer, although the writer doesn’t use that word about her, while Emira is, to some extent, the stereotypical aimless college graduate. Emira works for Alix as a babysitter.

The author portrays the differences between the two women as stemming from class and race. Alix is established in her career, with a book deal, a husband, a home and two children. Emira has no idea what she wants to do and is worried about losing her health insurance when she turns 26.

One evening while Emira is at a party, Alix calls her to take her older daughter out of the house because there has been an incident and the police are coming. Emira and a friend go and get the child and bring her to a local convenience store. A white woman, a Karen, thinks it is odd that Emira, all dressed up, is with a white child and alerts security.

A confrontation ensues, a bystander is filming it and it is only resolved when the child’s father, Peter, appears and vouches for Emira. This is the beginning of the book and it is certainly a timely scene.

Once Alix heards of this incident she is determined to show Emira that she is a good person. She does not articulate to herself that she wants it proven that she is not a racist. Alix becomes almost obsessive about Emira.

Emira, on the other hand is disinterested in Alix and her life. She doesn’t even google Alix to find out about her. Peter is a local tv news anchor but Emira seems unaware of this as well. She is not savvy about social media or the internet. This seemed implausible, given her age.

Although the book had nothing to do with Austen, I enjoyed reading it, especially in these fraught times. For me, the book reveals how problematic transactional relations in intimate settings can be, especially when there is disparity between the two parties involving race and class.

 

 

Memories

A few weeks ago, in my writing group, Nerissa, the group leader, read, as a prompt, a portion of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, where she talked about the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, in 1953. Being a red diaper baby, I grew up believing that the couple killed could have just as easily been my parents. Of course, the Rosenbergs were innocent; for my parents and their friends there was no other truth.

March 6, 2020 was the fiftieth anniversary of a townhouse in Greenwich Village, New York City, blowing up, killing three members of the Weather Underground. I knew one of the people killed – Ted Gold. I grew up with him. He was the youngest son of one of my mother’s closest friends.

The chapter of my book on faculty wives that I am currently working is about activism in the 1950s and 60s. I focus on two women – Sarah Patton Boyle and Anne Bennett. Boyle was an early white supporter of civil rights in Virginia while Bennett worked to end the Vietnam War.

My mother was a part of this activist history. As a baby, I was wheeled to Ban the Bomb demonstrations. She was a member of Women Strike for Peace. In the chapter, I describe a demonstration in Washington, DC that WSP organized. It is very possible that my mother was there.

The arc of history from the Rosenbergs to the Weather Underground is, in a simple way, the story of the Old Left morphing into the New Left; a generational shift that I was a part of. I have often wondered what my politics would have been if I had grown up in a different household. In my house, noisy discussion about politics were an everyday occurrence. Most of my parent’s friends had also been in the Communist Party. Whenever they came over, it got even louder. Being on the left is probably in my DNA.

 

 

Florence Nightingale, Part 3

This is part three of my three part post of a paper I wrote in 1994 about Florence Nightingale. You can read part one here and part two here. I had a good time revisiting this paper from almost thirty years ago.

Amy Mittelman ©2020, Professional Nursing I,                                                           Fall 1994

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

Lauren Smith used the Nightingale concept of management to frame her discussion of clinical nurse specialist (CNS) managed care for the chronically ill child.  In myelomeningocele clinics in Ohio, clinical nurse specialists provide case management.  Smith argues that this case management has provided early identification and intervention, continuity of care, increased parental advocacy skills, improved social and development skills for the children as well as professional growth and interdisciplinary collegiality for the nurses. She feels this work has carried out Nightingale’s directive of knowing that “what you do when you are there shall be done when you are not there.”[1]

Smith’s article was part of two in a recent issue of Clinical Nurse Specialist presented under the heading “Florence Nightingale: A CNS Role Model.”[2] The other article, “CNS Roles in Implementation of a Differentiated Case Management Model,” did not mention Nightingale.[3]

In doing research for this paper, I found many references to Nightingale, particularly in Japanese nursing literature. I disagree with the opinion expressed a few weeks ago that modern nursing views Nightingale as outdated. She remains a starting point for many nurse scholars and many nurses are eager to link their work with hers.  This may explain why that article appeared under the rubric “Florence Nightingale: A CNS Role Model” even though it did not mention Nightingale. Other examples of this are an article in Nurse Educator that is a letter by a nursing student to Nightingale and a response written by a Nightingale scholar, an article by Elise Gropper that claims Nightingale as “Nursing’s First Environmental Theorist,” and the work by Giger, Davidhizar and Miller that links Roy and Nightingale.[4]

Smith is an example of clinical use of an aspect of Nightingale’s theory. However, there are not that many explicit clinical examples because many of her themes – particularly asepsis – are an integral and unquestioned part of nursing today.  A Nightingale nurse caring for an ill hospitalized patient would not focus on the medical aspects of the patient’s condition. Nightingale did not consider that part of the nurse’s domain. As a Nightingale nurse you would assess the environment of the patient, paying particular attention to sanitary issues. You would draw your diagnoses from those functional health patterns that are environmentally oriented including Activity-Exercise, Sleep-Rest, Role-Relationship and Nutritional. Decreased Cardiac Output would not be an appropriate Nightingale diagnosis, but Impaired Physical Mobility or Impaired Skin Integrity would be. Your goals for the patient would focus on preventing illness from environmental conditions. Thus, your interventions would involve repositioning if the patient was bedridden, providing a restful, clean atmosphere and keeping the patient’s skin clean and dry to prevent skin breakdown.

Florence Nightingale had a tremendous impact on the history and development of nursing as a profession. I found it interesting and informative to read her work.  Many of her practical suggestions are still applicable today. Perhaps her claim that “observation, ingenuity and perseverance … really constitute the nurse” says it all.[5]

[1] Smith, Lauren D. 1994. Continuity of care through nursing: Case management of the chronically ill child. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2), p. 68.

[2] Sparacino, Patricia S.A. 1994. Florence Nightingale: A CNS role model. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2): 64.

[3] Brubakken, Karen, Wendy R. Janssen, and Diane L. Ruppel. 1994. CNS roles in implementation of a differentiated case management model. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2): 69-73.

[4] Decker, Bernita, and Joanne K. Farley. 1991. What would Nightingale say? Nurse Educator 16 (May/June): 12-13; Gropper, Elise I. 1990. Florence Nightingale: Nursing’s first environmental theorist. Nursing Forum 25: 30-33; Giger, Joyce N., Ruth Davidhizar, and Scott Wilson Miller. 1990. Nightingale and Roy: A comparison of nursing models. Today’s OR Nurse (April): 25-30.

[5] Nightingale, Florence. 1860. Notes on nursing. New York: D. Appleton and Company, p. 65.

 

 

 

Florence Nightingale, Part 2

This is part two of my three part post of a paper I wrote in 1994 while in nursing school. You can read part one here. Nightingale’s advice on sanitary practices, especially frequent hand washing, seems very relevant.

Amy Mittelman ©2020,                                                                                   Professional Nursing I, Fall 1994

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

In Nightingale’s view the environment was also nature centered and physically based; it was the nurse’s responsibility to manipulate it to provide sanitary conditions. Her emphasis was one of prevention. “True nursing ignores infection, except to prevent it.  Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attentions to the patient, are the only defense a true nurse either asks or needs”[1] Giger, Davidhizar and Miller have found Nightingale’s focus on the environment to be similar to Sister Callista Roy’s adaptation nursing theory.[2]

In 1860 the germ theory of disease was not a part of scientific discourse.  As it became prevalent, Nightingale refused to believe it.[3] Because Nightingale believed that disease was a reparative process, external forces such as dirt, odors, and poor diet had to cause it. She would not accept that a person could get sick in sanitary conditions.  Nightingale did not believe that medicine was a “curative process . . . nature alone cures.”[4] Health was a state of nature; illness was a response to a disruption in that state.

Although Nightingale rejected the germ theory of disease which is a cornerstone of modern medicine and nursing, many of her opinions on sanitary practices are still appropriate. She emphasized frequent hand washing, the value of fresh air, the evils of dirty carpets, the importance of modulating the stimulus a patient receives, and the importance of maintaining a patient’s spirits. These all remain critical aspects of caring for a patient and effecting recovery.

Nightingale believed that the same guidelines of sanitation applied to the healthy as well as the sick. The person was a subject of nature and had the responsibility to observe nature’s law in such a manner (sanitary) as to avoid infection and illness.  Again, the emphasis was prevention.[5]

To Nightingale, the nurse’s role in the reparative process was “to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him” She felt that nursing should “signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet and the proper administration of diet – all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.”[6]

Nightingale advocated a patient centered nursing. She stressed the importance of “sound observation” for “the sake of saving life and increasing health and comfort.” Although Nightingale emphasized the high level of attention that the nurse must undertake, she also pointed out the importance of delegating responsibility as a way of knowing that “what you do when you are there, shall be done when you are not there.”[7]

 

[1] Nightingale, Florence. 1860. Notes on nursing. New York: D. Appleton and Company, p. 34.

[2] Giger, Joyce N., Ruth Davidhizar, and Scott Wilson Miller. 1990. Nightingale and Roy: A comparison of nursing models. Today’s OR Nurse (April): 25-30.

[3] Vicinus, Martha, and Bea Nergaard. 1990. Ever yours, Florence Nightingale. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nightingale, Notes, p.133.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Nightingale, Notes, p. 133, 8.

[7] Nightingale, Notes, p. 125, 35

Constance Green

Last week I finished the chapter of my book about faculty wives that I have been working on for over a year. The chapter, “Aristocracy” is about the gendered and hierarchical nature of academia. I wound up using one family, the Angells, as the framework for the chapter. One woman, Constance Green became the focus. Constance McLaughlin Green was an urban and technology historian who, in 1963, won a Pulitzer Prize for her book on Washington, D.C. She died in 1975.

On Dec. 5, 1975, I was living in my parent’s apartment following my college graduation. My boyfriend who I had lived with my senior year was now in England on a scholarship. A scholarship I had helped him get while not applying for anything myself.

I was depressed and in pain from sciatica that had developed after I got out of the backseat of a two-door car. As I read the New York Times that day, I came across Constance Green’s obituary. “That’s it”, I thought. “I’ll go to graduate school and be like her.” She had gotten her Ph.D. from Yale; a school I wanted to go to because I loved the architecture.

Forty-five years later I have written a mini biography of Constance Green. The more I found out about her, the more her life story resonated with me. Of course, I have not; and will never win a Pulitzer Prize. I am the descendant of immigrants not college presidents. What strikes a chord with me is her determination to pursue scholarship and writing history.

Stuck in Holyoke, she was determined to go to graduate school. Harvard’s dismissal of her as a woman with children who belonged at home did not deter her. Although I did not have children when I got my Ph.D. I was pregnant with my first child when I defended my thesis.

A few years earlier, I applied for a job at Wesleyan. The man interviewing me asked if I was planning on having any distractions. This was code for asking if I was pregnant. I doubt if a man would ever receive a question about possible parenthood. As for Western Massachusetts, as a native New Yorker who had never lived anywhere else, the first year I lived in Northampton I constantly felt that I was living deep into the country, far away from civilization.

Constance Green did not receive her PhD until she was forty and had three children at home. She never held a traditional full-time academic position. She had a prestigious career because she persisted in pursuing something that mattered deeply to her.

When I decided to switch careers, I did not know how or if I would keep doing historical scholarship. I had 2 small children. It turned out that, like Constance, I had to persist. The first year I worked as a nurse, I spent a week’s vacation going to Amherst College to research The Ladies of Amherst. Twenty-one years after I defended my dissertation, I published Brewing Battles.

Both Constance Green and I came from generations that feminism impacted but neither of us were able to fully realize the benefits. My book is bringing back into history woman like us.

 

 

 

 

The Mysteries of Udolpho

I run a Jane Austen book club for the Jones Library. Despite the library being closing, I will be hosting, via Zoom, a meeting of the club tomorrow. This is the second year of the club. I have structured it so the first meeting of the year we read a Jane Austen book. Then, for the rest of the year, we read books related to the Austen work.

This year, we read Northanger Abbey. On Thursday we will be discussing The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Scholars consider Udolpho to be the first Gothic novel. Austen satirized it in Northanger Abbey. Udolpho is a very long book; almost 700 pages.  The gothic or “frightening part” is the middle third. It was slow reading up until that point and then the pace picked up.

During her stay at the Udolpho castle, Emily, the heroine suffered mightily. Many eerie and unexplained things happened. The author also builds suspense because you do not know if there will be a reunion of Emily and her love, Valancourt. After Emily leaves the castle, the pace of the book slows down again.

In the end, there is a rationale explanation for everything that occurred. Emily is a sensible, intelligent young woman. Throughout the book she only rarely succumbs to belief in the supernatural. In this way, she and Catherine Moorland, Austen’s heroine, are similar.  Catherine, partly because she is reading The Mysteries of Udolpho throughout Northanger Abbey, initially believes horrid things have happened in the castle she is visiting. In the end of her book, sense prevails as well.

I had mixed feelings about The Mysteries of Udolpho. There were parts I enjoyed and parts I disliked. The book, while it might have been new in 1794, feels dated in a way Northanger Abbey doesn’t.

Businesswoman

To be honest, I was having trouble coming up with a post for this week because I am busy, and my computer is on the fritz. I started looking at some of my old posts and stumbled across one from almost eleven years ago that I found interesting.

At that time, the host for my website and blog was Network Solutions. On social media, I complained about something that was wrong with my site and their response was to ask me to write a post for a blog they had, Women Grow Business.

I wrote the post, questioning whether I could find define myself as a businesswoman.  Click here to read the post. (The formatting is from Network Solutions). Reflecting on all the work I did to promote Brewing Battles, I am proud of what I accomplished. Although I do not make any money from this blog, I am also proud of the presence I have built on social media.

Stoudt’s Brewery Closing

There are not that many women in the brewing industry. Carol Stoudt was one of the pioneers, opening Stoudt’s in the 1980’s. This week she has announced that she is retiring and the brewery is closing. You can read more about this here and here. You can also hear an interview with her here.

In 2009, while spending a month in Manhattan, I went to a panel discussion on women in brewing. Carol Stoudt was one of the speakers. I wrote two post about the evening. You can read the  first here.  I am reposting the second one, from September 17, 2009, below.

Women in the Beer Industry: Part Two

The panel discussion on Tuesday was very engaging and went past two hours. Each of the speakers provided details about how they got into the industry. Carol Stoudt was an educator but got interested in beer through her husband who loved good beer. They travelled to Germany. On their return, Carol wondered why they could not have the same quality of beer at their restaurant in Adamstown, PA. She does not feel that being a woman hindered her career in brewing and credits two men, Karl Strauss and Greg Noonan, with helping her.

Carol, along with the other panelists, felt that it was mainly a myth that women do not like beer as much as men and that they liked to drink “fruity” beers more often. She blamed much of this perception on marketing and media. Carol also believes that women brewing beer has long historical roots and that there are now many places in the world where women are returning to this practice. In particular, she mentioned Ethiopia.

Jennifer Schwertman, the bartender, felt it was a matter of educating women about beer and having better bartenders to help with this process. She believes it is a partnership between brewers and the community palate. Jen loves the community around craft brewing as much as she loves the beer.

Sarah Beach is from Belgium and has worked for Duvel Moorgat/Ommegang for four years. She is in sales and said when she goes into a retail establishment for the first time they often asked her if she is old enough to drink beer. I thought it was interesting that she was included on the panel since Ommegang is a craft brewery that a larger company owns.

Susan Greene, from Global Brewers Guild, is involved in sales and marketing and has worked for the company for over six years. Prior to her working in the beer industry, she was involved with restaurants. Susan feels that although New York has numerous excellent restaurants, the establishments often have poor beer lists.  In this area, she feels other cities are better.

A common theme among many of the panelists was that the craft beer scene is more vibrant in other parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Northwest. All are committed to making craft beers a thriving presence in New York City.

Debbie Boening stated that her family company had been involved, along with the Van Munching’s in importing and distributing Heineken in America. When Heineken took back distribution, it left a big gap in  Boening’s portfolio. It was at this point that she started looking at craft beers. In the early 1980s, Jin Koch (Boston Beer) had to make several repeat visits before she would agree to sell Sam Adams.

One of her sales reps was in the audience and told of going to various stores and bars saying, “I have Stoudt’s for you.” The other person would reply, “We have Guinness.” Sales Rep:  “It’s Carol Stoudt.” “You want me to buy a woman’s beer?” However, the distinctiveness of a woman making Stoudt’s did provide entry. Debbie said that, despite having many excellent craft beers in her portfolio, Colt 45 was still her top seller.

None of the panelists really felt that being a woman in the beer industry had made their path more difficult. All felt that the craft beer industry is very welcoming and supportive. The audience was overwhelmingly female so there may be a completely new group of women anxious to enter the industry.

Book Review: The Clergyman’s Wife

The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley is one of the best adaptations of a Jane Austen book that I have read. The main character is Charlotte Lucas; the book imagines her life after she married Mr. Collins. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte’s decision is a practical one. She tells Elizabeth, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home.”[1]

Greeley does an excellent job portraying the limited choices available to women like Charlotte who remains unmarried at 27 and is not a beauty. The fact that Mr. Collins is gainfully employed as a minister and has a wealthy woman, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as a benefactor probably would have been enough to make him a good catch. However, his prospects which include being the heir to Longbourn really sealed the deal.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Greeley’s expansion of the Greeley back story. The knighting of Mr. Lucas was not a complete blessing. The Lucas family was better off, financially when he owned a haberdashery shop. The family’s social elevation reduced the marriage options for both Charlotte and Maria.

The plot involves Charlotte forming a friendship with a local farmer, Mr. Travis. Through this friendship, she gains a better sense of what a marriage built on love and mutual interests might be like. Charlotte also realizes that this was not ever a viable option for her.

In the other good adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn, by Jo Baker, Mrs. Bennett dies, and Mr. Bennett lives into old age. In that book, the entail of Mr. Bennett’s estate is not discussed. Because Charlotte is Greely’s heroine, the entail becomes a plot point in The Clergyman’s Wife.

After Charlotte has been married for several year, lost a child at birth and has a young daughter, Mr. Bennett dies. The estate at Longbourn now belongs to Mr. Collins. The inheritance requires the Collins to leave Hunsford and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It also means that Charlotte and Mr. Travis must part.

In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte makes a practical choice which Elizabeth disparages. Elizabeth has a much happier outcome when she marries Mr. Darcy. The Clergyman’s Wife has a more realistic ending for Charlotte and by inference many women in the early 19th century. In the end Charlotte’s need to have both love and economic security remains unmet.

[1] Jane Austen, The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard.

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.