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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

The arrival of Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is being heralded by talks at the annual “Books and Brunch” May 7 and a book launch at the Cincinnati Museum Center May 28.

After two years of research and writing, I am extremely pleased to announce that Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, Powells.com, or a local bookstore near you (like Joseph-Beth, here in Cincinnati).

And if you’re here in Cincinnati, you have two opportunities to hear me speak on topics from the book coming up in May.

First, I will be one of four featured speakers on May 7 at the “Books & Brunch” for the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati. They’re a nonprofit that helps children and adults with educational and health “gap” needs and helps them succeed in removing themselves from abusive environments. So, given the focus of what they do, I am talking about DeHart Hubbard and his being the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal, then winning an Enquirer contest that gave him a full-ride scholarship to the University of Michigan and what a successful, meaningful life he had afterward. Hubbard was the great-uncle of former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Second, the official book launch takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, at the Cincinnati Museum Center. I will talk about Nicholas Longworth in a presentation called “A Glass of Wine, a Loaf of Bread and Wow!” The talk will be followed by Q&A and a book signing.

I did a lot of my research for the book at the Museum Center (and of course at the fantastic Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library) and the Museum Center is a wonderful, valuable resource in our community, so I am donating 5 percent of my profits to the Museum Center.

The May 28 event is free (except for $4 for parking; handicapped accessible parking is available). Wood, Herron & Evans is sponsoring a coffee reception during the book signing.

I’m supposed to be doing a book signing in June at Joseph-Beth, but the details of that haven’t been firmed up yet. Check back for more info!

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From the publisher’s website:

When gazing at the city’s impressive skyline, we too often forget the notable individuals who built these grand and glittering buildings, as well as the nearby museums, parks and neighborhoods we also treasure. Reflected in the character, reputation and even design of our city, the legacy of the early settlers continues on today. Through their efforts, almost always imbued with a civic entrepreneurial spirit, they stamped their mark on our burgeoning regional reputation, while also allowing current leaders to bolster and broaden our national reputation.

 

Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati brings to life the founding families’ histories, sharing these intertwined and fascinating tales with readers near and far. A charming history of lives lived large — truly the Who’s Who (as well as the When and Where) of Cincinnati — that when considered together, made the Queen City the great place to live and work that it is today.

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Testimonials:

Mary Thomas Watts, writer for the “Gary Burbank Show” on WLW:

“Wendy Hart Beckman’s Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is an enchantingly fresh, generation by generation narrative of the men and women whose dreams, hard work, governance and philanthropy built the Queen City.

Beckman’s meticulous historical research, her affection for the city she calls home, and her luminous good humor reward the reader from first page to last. Informative, inspiring, entertaining, and a whole lot of fun to boot, Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is a must read for Cincinnati aficionados, those who live here and those who would if they only could.”

 

Ann Hagedorn, author of Wild Ride, Beyond the River, and more:

“Have you been to Losantiville? No? Think again. You may live there, for this was Cincinnati’s first name. And it is just one of many fascinating details unveiled in Wendy Beckman’s new book Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati. The names may be familiar but the facts are often fresh in this depiction of the Queen City’s past. Beckman not only shows us Cincinnati’s significance to the nation from the start, both culturally and economically, but she deepens our understanding of the individuals who shaped the city’s uniqueness and spurred its success. The struggles, the risks, the sacrifices, the wealth, the crises, the excitement. It’s all there. Did you know that Cincinnati’s 1813 volunteer fire department was the first in the nation, that 8,000 Cincinnatians perished in the 1849 cholera epidemic, and that 150 furniture factories once thrived in the town? It’s a good read for all of us who love Cincinnati and always want to know more.”

 

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CoverI love my adopted city. So I was thrilled when Clerisy Press tapped me to write a book about the people who built this great place I call home.

“So who’s in the book?” you might ask. Thanks for asking!

Well, here, let me quote myself: “When I considered whom to include in this book, two things became evident: Cincinnatians don’t stay in neat little categories such as business, fine arts, healthcare, education, or politics. The founding families might have made their mark in one area—soap, for example—but they also contributed to the welfare of their fellow Cincinnatians in other arenas (sometimes literally). And Cincinnati’s future foundational families are continuing the tradition.

So how did I choose which families to include in this book? After much mulling, I came up with a set of criteria. The founding families in this book did some combination of the following:

  • They played an important role in moving Cincinnati forward….
  • They had several members and/or generations who contributed to Cincinnati’s or Cincinnatians’ existence….
  • They had a name that modern Cincinnatians would recognize in some way, as in Nippert Stadium, Longworth Hall, or Symmes Township.
  • They were or are of national importance. William Howard Taft is perhaps the most famous Taft of his era, having served as both president and chief justice of the United States, but he was just one of many very active Tafts.

 I ignored the differences between those people who were born in Cincinnati and those who immigrated here. John Cleves Symmes was born in New York, but he would later get a charter to come here, to what was at that time the last bastion of civilization before the ‘wild’ western frontier. And that’s where our story begins.”

Did you know that the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal was not Jesse Owens? That honor belongs to a Cincinnatian who beat Owens’ achievement by 12 years.

Did you know that the seed for Big Brothers/Big Sisters was planted here in Cincinnati? And that family is still watching out for children generations later.

Save the date for the book launch, to be held Wednesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at the Cincinnati Museum Center as part of their Insights Lecture Series. I’ll talk, read from the book, hold a Q&A session, and then we’ll have a book signing afterward. I am donating five percent of my profits from this book to the Museum Center, so each book you buy benefits this great Cincinnati institution.

Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is available for pre-order from Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, and elsewhere. If you cannot make the book launch on May 28, keep your eyes peeled for my signing at Jo-Beth in June.

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Looking for a gift for a loved one this holiday season? I’d like to make a few recommendations. You might notice a theme here. OK, I’ll make a full disclosure: the following are books I edited.

Want your mind to be entertained with some food for thought while your stomach is digesting its own food? Then take a look at Benjamin Gorman’s The Sum of Our Gods.

Here’s the description from the author: Joe has been cursed. He musSum of Our Godst meet with Yahweh, the Creator, once a week for coffee and listen to God complain. Yahweh is a crotchety old deity with a pantheon of family problems. His wife, Frigga, has basically stopped talking to Him, except to nag Him about retiring. His son, Jesus, suffers from crippling depression. Oh, and Jesus’ estranged wife is planning a terrorist attack to start a holy war. God is fed up with all the drama. He’s perfectly tired and infinitely irritable. Though God doesn’t seem to care about human problems, Joe’s little, mortal life isn’t perfect, either. In fact, it’s a comedy as black as God’s coffee.

My two cents: The Sum of Our Gods, Ben Gorman’s first published novel, just blew my socks off in a quirky way. Ben’s paternal grandparents are Catholic and Jewish; their son — Ben’s father, is a Presbyterian minister — as is Ben’s mother. Ben, himself, holds a degree in philosophy, is married to a Quaker, teaches creative writing and calls himself agnostic. How could he not help but write a brilliant novel full of the gods wrestling with their demons and each other? Yes, godS. His working title for the book was “And Lo, God Took His Coffee Black” (in case you wondered.) This is a fantastic debut novel, and I can’t wait for Ben’s second!

If you don’t want to think that hard, or if nonfiction is more what you’re looking for, try Paige Adams Strickland’s Akin to the Truth. Her memoir would be of interest to people in the adoption triad or anyone who grew up in the Cincinnati area in the 1960s and 70s. Akin to the Truth

From the author: In 1961 Paige was put up for adoption, a more taboo and secretive topic than it is today. Paige’s adoptive family chose not to focus on the adoption, but instead function as a regular family with natural children. However, being adopted made her feel vulnerable and unreal. She longed to know more about her true self. In Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, Paige tells stories from the perspective of a child and adolescent, growing up with a closely guarded secret. Through vignettes, Paige relates feelings about her adoption to forming and maintaining relationships, caring for pets, moving to new houses and neighborhoods, losing loved ones and entering young adulthood.  Her need for acceptance is juxtaposed with her adoptive father’s increasingly erratic behavior. This is a tale of family joys and hardships, friendships, falling in love and the need to belong. It is set in the era of free love, social unrest and unexpected change during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

From me: Throughout Paige’s childhood, she struggled with feelings of loss, establishing her identity, and tiptoeing through an awkward relationship with her father. Knowing that she was adopted heightened these challenges and added another: finding her birth family. In this entertaining memoir, Paige recounts how she faced her “demons,” and how she learned that she was not alone.

Spreading our interest geographically and chronologically brings us to another memoir, Over My Shoulder: 1931–1945, by the distinguished Ewin Gaby. Over My Shoulder

About the book: History books generally avoid the details of human life. They tell of what happened at a time, but not how it affected those living through that time. The depression of the 1930’s and the war of the early 1940’s changed the world, and history books provide great detail as to the causes and of the changes brought about. Still, how families handled these challenges cannot be told in a book of history, because each family had its own manner of living through these significant historical periods. This book is the story of how a young boy and his family live through the depression of the 30’s and the Second World War. Unlike many others, his father is employed, but that employment causes them to live in 145 towns in his first ten years. When the Second World War begins, they move to New Orleans for the next four years. What a way to grow up!

A few notes from me: Ewin’s book is available in paperback, Kindle or CD version. I recommend the CD highly. With his combination Texas–Louisiana accent, Ewin reads his memoir wonderfully. You can sit back and just listen to a time when kids played outside until it got dark, when mothers and kids pulled together to make the family run while fathers were away during the war, when school kids ran paper drives to support the war effort. Shoot, if your father or grandfather is no longer with you, get the CD and it’s as if you’re together again, hearing stories about the old days, when life was simple.

And a little shameless self-promotion:

My first book, Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Enslow, 2002) has gone into a  second printing. Now titled Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers,  it is available in library binding, paperback and e versions.Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers

In this book I profile ten African Americans who had key contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, an explosion of creativity that started in New York City in the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance lasted for about 20 years and had even international repercussions.

Here’s one review of the original book:

Children’s Literature

Harlem, New York, was the setting for a cultural upsurge in the 1920’s and 1930’s. During those decades a series of Black writers, artists, vocalists, and poets sprang forth and gave voice to the conditions of African-Americans. At a time when racial prejudice was even more overt than in our own age, it took great courage for Black artists to stand up and honestly portray their lot in America. Artists such as Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Josephine Baker all provided a unique expression to what it meant to be a Black person either living in America or with American roots. This artistic movement came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance and that is the subject covered in this collection of short biographies. In this illustrated selection author Wendy Hart Beckman provides encapsulated biographies of ten artists who participated in the Harlem Renaissance. In each instance Ms. Beckman provides a careful outline of the artist’s background, development, contributions, and later life. This is a good reference tool for readers with an interest in African-American history or specifically Black artists of this era. The Harlem Renaissance was a significant movement in American culture and Ms. Beckman does well to offer readers a summary of some of the leading lights of that period.

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Or I will be horribly lonely.

The “Dayton Book Expo” (being held 11 to 4 at Sinclair Community College) is going to be a blast, full of first-time authors telling their life stories, experienced novelists with another edge-of-your-chair romance, and panels of folks for you to listen to. Many of the books have been self-published, so if you think you might want to follow that path, follow I-75 to Dayton.

Now about that loneliness thing…. (more…)

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