Summer is here, and for some it means sun-kissed days, nightlights lit by lighting bugs ( or fireflies, depending on your region of the country), and relaxed schedules. And for many, there are travel plans in the works; a much anticipated trip to get away from routine and to enjoy some different scenery. Summer can also offer an opportunity to catch up on genealogical research. If you are feeling inspired and inquisitive about a certain historical event or era that your family members were a part of, a great non-fiction book may be just the “key to your tree.”
Here are some recommendations from my bookshelf that are not only historic in scope, but also may be relative to you in your own search:
Confederates In the Attic by Tony Horwitz: Published in 1997, Pulitzer Prize winner and native Virginian Horwitz takes readers on a quest through his native South-land in his attempt to visit Civil War battlefields in the order in which they were fought. Along the way he meets a variety of indelible characters: the Confederate re-enactor who can bloat on command, the mild mannered housewife who helped establish “Cats of the Confederacy”, and the former First Lady of Georgia, who may own one of the most iconic pieces of movie memorabilia ever created, if she could just remember where she put it. There are also tales of racial strife and division that clearly illustrate the struggles this region of the country faced even in the late 20th century. This book will undoubtedly touch readers’ emotions, but it is a fascinating snapshot of American history. And it is a great travelogue, profiling the byways of the South as well as the historic lands that soaked in and holds the memories of boys in blue and grey.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson: The Pulitzer Prize winning author follows three main characters: Ida Mae, Robert, and George against the backdrop of the historic “Great Migration.” Between the years of 1915 and 1970, nearly six million African Americans left the American South for the North in search of the American Dream. From Michigan, which was quickly becoming the hub of the automotive industry, to New York, the hub of all thing jazz, to California, where “talkies” were all the rage, it seemed opportunity was at every turn. But what would their experiences really be like? Even as the tumult of the Civil Rights era churned, people still made the pilgrimage to new lands, tired of the lives they were leaving behind, even as they traveled toward the unknown. This is another book guaranteed to elicit an emotional reaction, but is an excellent exploration into an important event in American history.
American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus: Maybe you like your history dashed with a hint of the paranormal? Look no further than this newly released book. In the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico, nestled among the pastoral colors of the desert, lies the luxurious La Posada Hotel. Formerly the Victorian mansion of German immigrants Julia and Abraham Staab, the hotel includes the original threshold and entryway to the home, which are located in the lounge. In addition to being a living piece of history, it is also purportedly haunted by the angry spirit of Julia, a woman who saw herself as wronged and who suffered numerous tragedies. In an effort to understand her great-great grandmother’s anguish and history, the author travels through America and Europe to find the truth about Julia. Along the way she also collects the ghost stories that have floated through La Posada for decades. La Posada is open to the public as a functioning hotel and is also a stop on the Santa Fe ghost tour, which I highly recommend. If you are brave enough, ask to stay in Julia’s suite.
Although these may not appeal to all, I think these books have important messages and are relevant to historical times in the United States
If you have any books that have influenced your research, please feel free to comment.