Category Archives: Memoir

Norfolk: A People’s History

I ordered Norfolk: A People’s History specificially for the 2015 Reading Challenge as my book that is set in my hometown. Yeah….I realize that I could have searched for a fiction book set in Norfolk, but I didn’t have much patience for it. I’m also not a fan of “manly man military fiction books” which, if it involves the Navy, will at least mention Norfolk, VA.

Speaking of which, BF’s been binge watching NCIS and we are amazed by how they’re able to get from DC to Hampton Roads in 15 minutes or less! There was also an early episode that mentions I-264 (or I-64, I can’t remember which) when they’re clearly on I-564 (564 being the direct route to the base). Anyway, I digress.

But…maybe I’m not digressing too much. I mean, that’s a main theme of this short history: how Norfolk is both defined by the Navy and yet refuses to be defined as anything but “Anytown, USA”. We’re often mentioned whenever the Navy is, but at the same time, it’s an anonymous place. The media can’t even be bothered to get the basic facts right when it comes to portraying this town. Huh, while double checking whether Kevin Bacon’s The Following is set in Norfolk (as I remember hearing shortly before it premiered) I learned that Wikipedia has a page for “Books set in Norfolk”, but the 4 that I checked are all set in Norfolk, England, which is why I gave up (even Mr American). Anyway, back to The Following–I think there was an article in The Virginian Pilot about the show which said that even though it’s supposed to be set in Norfolk, locals would recognize nothing.

This history is short and to the point, which has it’s benefits and it’s downfalls. It’s like reading an article on Wikipedia: you’ll get the gist of the story, but depth and nuances are lost.

For instance, one point I thought was lacking was on how Norfolkians responded to Union occupation during the Civil War. Ms. Rose claims that there was a lot of dislike of the Union Occupiers because Norfolk was Pro-Confederacy. This is inaccurate–the towns of Norfolk and Portsmouth were actually Pro-Union for the most part. Now, the rest of Hampton Roads was mostly Pro-Confederacy and I’ve read the diary of one woman from Chesapeake who hated Benjamin Butler and accused him of all sorts of inhumanities even as he treated her husband fairly enough. But my absolute favorite story of the Civil War in Portsmouth (which was essentially an extension of Norfolk) was of the ladies fainting in the streets as it was announced that Virginia had seceded the Union. They were certain that Lincoln was going to turn the guns of Fort Monroe upon them and blow them to kingdom come. In fact, this idea never crossed any official desk.

A few years ago I was appalled to learn that in Virginia it is perfectly legal to not educate your children (2 or 3 years ago there was a census of like 2000 kids who were not participating in any structured education). While I can support homeschooling and believe that a parent who can educate their children should be able to do so, I do think that it’s society’s obligation to ensure that those children are at least taught the basics and that the Standards of Learning (SOLs–VA’s state tests) should be required of all students to check that they are getting taught something useful! I’d like to think that even without state tests, these children are learning to read and do basic math and are getting an appreciation for science and history, but then I’ve been reading Homeschoolers Anonymous and hearing the personal accounts of what some children went through. There are a few topics where I feel that one person is too many and this is one of those–one child being denied a good education while the government lets it happen is too many.

This history of Norfolk explains that this lack of educating in Virginia stems from not only the lack of importance placed on education prior to the 1950’s, but also was the result of opposition towards desegregation. In fact, in the 1950s, the VA Assembly abolished the law that made school attendance compulsory, which is why it’s legal in VA to not educate your children. Grr.

But it wasn’t until the 1990’s that education became important in Norfolk and I was one beneficiary of the push for pre-school education for poor children. When I got into Pre-K, even though it was taught at what was going to be my elementary school, admittance was limited to poor children who needed extra help. There was a test of basic knowledge that I had to take and according to my dad, the person giving the test had to lie about the fact that I could identify my stomach to get me in so that we could get that little bit of free child care so my mom could work a little more (it was only a half day back then). Even though my parents did a lot to prepare me for school and I didn’t really need the Pre-K classes for education’s sake, besides the child care, Pre-K also got me started in a school environment a year earlier than Kindergarten would have which actually made me about the same age as a Kindergartner. You see, my birthday is in late October, but the cut off for Kindergarten was being 5 on September 30th. I wouldn’t have started school until I was nearly 6 without Pre-K!

I did learn one thing about myself while reading this history: everyone looks Italian too me (my mom’s family is Italian)! I did NOT know that the Deckers and the Doumars are Lebanese–I thought they were Italian! And I thought I was multi-cultured! I was surprised that that infamous Greek Festival wasn’t mentioned even though a basic history of the Greeks in Norfolk was covered. I’ve never been.

Anyway, this is a good overview of the city and I’m intrigued to read more of these snapshots of American life.

Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA
Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA by Snowpeaceful
Check out Norfolk virginia Postcards online at zazzle
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Hospital Sketches

Hospital Sketches is a compilation of four sketches based on letters Louisa May Alcott sent home during the six weeks she spent as a volunteer nurse for the Union Army in Georgetown. The first of the four was initially published on May 22, 1863 in the magazine “Boston Commonwealth.” The pieces received great critical and popular acclaim making Alcott an overnight success. The four sketches were compiled and published in a single volume by the abolitionist publisher James Redpath several months later.



This is a great introduction to historic writing. Yes, this book was and still is billed as a true story, but if you delve deeper into the story, you can find plenty of evidence of embellishment. But…is it fiction? Or is this embellishment still truth? One could argue that this is actually how Alcott saw and remembered the events. Or she could have intentionally embellished events to increase sympathy for the cause. This is why studying history isn’t about memorizing dates and looking at the world as though it’s black and white.


Become a Nurse notebook

Become a Nurse notebook by ohiohistory

Browse Nursing Notebooks online at Zazzle.com

Sarah Palin, Going Rogue

From Booklist: “No good deed goes unpunished. Just ask Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign manager and the guy who pushed Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate. Now, in Palin’s much-hyped book, he’s just a fat, smoking bullet-head who told her to “stick to the script.” The feeling running through Going Rogue is that Palin has been bursting to take a whack at those she believes didn’t do right by her during the campaign. (Katie Couric, we’re looking at you!) Before readers get to that, however, there’s personal biography. We’re introduced to Sarah the reader—loved to read—the basketball player, hunter, wife, mother. Then lots and lots of Alaska politics, which will probably be a little hard even for people from Alaska to plow through. (Scores are settled here, too.) Once Palin gets into the 2008 campaign, the tone is folksy, but the knives are out. Much has been made of her criticisms of Schmidt and another McCain staffer, Nicolle Wallace. But less has been said about Palin’s comments about Barack Obama. For instance, she notes that when she and husband Todd first heard Obama speak, they saw the wow factor but worried that his “smooth” talk would hide his radical ideas. She also implies that Obama wanted to shield only his own children from the press, though, in fact, in September 2008, he told CNN that Palin’s children must be off limits as well. Ronald Reagan’s name is mentioned by page 3 and invoked regularly throughout. There’s no doubt Palin sees herself as heir to his legacy. But many readers will see the Sarah Palin revealed in these pages as much closer to George Bush, someone you’d like to have a beer with. Or perhaps dinner: “I always remind people from outside our state that there’s plenty of room for all Alaska’s animals—right next to the mashed potatoes.” –Ilene Cooper

I read this because she’s just one of those figures that I needed to read her own words to figure out if she’s just misunderstood or really just nuts. Turns out she’s simply delusional. Here’s the short version for my reasoning: to “go rogue” one must be fighting against “the man”, but this book is filled with “here’s how ‘the man’ wanted to hold me down and see how I let him do that, but I’m a-gonna ‘go rogue’ now by tellin’ ya’ll that when I was letting the man hold me down, I was totally thinking “when I’m vice president, I’ll show you who’s boss”. She gives example after example after example of how she kept getting walked all over in politics while she apparently was thinking how moronic these guys all were. Like I’m going to vote for someone who is man-handled into clothes she didn’t want to wear because internally she’s thinking that it’s stupid and not her fault.

The other reason big why I don’t like Sarah Palin? Because if a vegan came to her house she’d hand them half a head of iceberg and call that dinner while her family eats moose stew. I’ll let you insert all the negative names I’m mentally calling her. I don’t care if she thinks being vegan or vegetarian is stupid, there are a half dozen equally easy ways to not be rude to a dinner guest.

Here’s some gifts that hopefully won’t offend anyone while still catering to a fan of this book. If you’re looking for something a bit more right-wing I’ll leave you to search on your own.

Divide and Conquer 2016 Bumper Sticker

Divide and Conquer 2016 Bumper Sticker by Aurantiaco
Look at more 2016 Bumper Stickers at zazzle

US Flag 1776 Courier Bags

US Flag 1776 Courier Bags by ArtisticFlags
Check out Usa 1776 flag Messenger Bags online at zazzle

american flag,united states flag grocery bags