Friday, July 10, 2015

A Collection of Personal and Revealing Letters

My historical fiction novel "Guardians and Other Angels" features transcriptions of authentic letters written by several of the main characters. Included in the novel is this one dated July 22, 1936, and is penned by my maternal grandmother Lena Gaffin and addressed to her firstborn child Marlin "Bob" Gaffin. Bob was in the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), a highly successful program put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its purpose was to provide employment for young men across the nation, disenfranchised young men essentially, who were victims of the Great Depression.

In the novel, I funnel the experiences of the characters through pivotal decades of the twentieth century, making it a multi-layered story that blends fact and fiction.

"Guardians and Other Angels" is a 2.99 eBook on Amazon. http://goo.gl/imUwKO.

The paperback edition will be available in a few days.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

.99 eBook Features the Evolution of Two American Families Over Time

Beginning Sunday, June 14, 2014, the true-life novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS by author Linda Lee Greene will be discounted to .99 eBook http://goo.gl/imUwKO 
 

In GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS, best-selling author Linda Lee Greene captures the evolution of two families over the early to late decades of the twentieth century. A warm and generous work of historical fiction, each character is intricately rendered, each one sculpted so precisely into the matrix of the families and their environment that we come away with a greater understanding of the mystifying ties of kinship, the everlasting call of home. Based on actual events, and featuring dozens of authentic personal letters written by the story’s principles, Greene delivers a seamless blend of fact and fiction in her multi-layered novel. “Reminiscent of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘Angela’s Ashes,’ one only has to read those Pulitzer Prize winners to appreciate the level of care Greene took in her writing of her stunningly beautiful GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS,” says one reviewer. #twentiethcentury #love #family #siblings #marriage #farm #Ohio #GreatDepression #WWII #respiratorydisease 
 
Linda Lee Greene is also the co-author with Debra Shiveley Welch of the suspense novel JESUS GANDHI OMA MAE ADAMS http://amzn.to/VazHFG. Linda’s artwork is on view at www.gallery-llgreene.com. Linda’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor. Her Amazon Author’s Page is at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene, and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor, as well as on her Goodreads page at http://www.goodreads.com/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor
 
 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Once Had a Farm in Ireland


While this new memoir by German author Siggy Buckley takes place in Ireland, with nostalgic sojourns into Germany, this could be anyone’s story. It is certainly mine. It brought me back to similar, bittersweet days of my own marriage, a time like Buckley’s, when a major change in residence resulted in unforeseen challenges of heart and mind and spirit, as well as bewildering customs, language barriers, taxing environments, and colorful characters, all of which remain as indelible memories. This slice of Buckley’s biography is full of fun, and also of some sorrow. All in all, it is a reminiscent tale that might carry you back to a former time of your own, as it did me.  In any event, climb on board the moving trucks, farm tractors, horse box, and more, and travel the narrow, winding, and rocky roads of Ireland’s countryside with Buckley, and have yourself a delightful reading experience with I Once Had a Farm in Ireland. 
 
 
I Once Had a Farm in Ireland:
 
Living the Organic Lifestyle
 
Author: Siggy Buckley
 
Cover: Tayyana Bano
 
Genre: Memoir     
 
List price: $12.80 on Kindle: $2.99
 
Available from Amazon.com
About the book:
A wheelbarrow, a cable drum, gardening tools, and a pickaxe are unusual items on a wedding registry. They are what Mac and Siggy, a German professional couple, need to fulfill their dream of organic gardening. When Chernobyl blows up a few years later, they are scared enough to undertake fundamental changes in the lives of their young family to seek a simpler and healthier lifestyle in an unspoiled country.
They buy a farm in Tipperary, Ireland. They give up their jobs, friends and home to raise their children in an unpolluted environment. Although Siggy shares her husband’s environmental convictions, she would prefer a warmer climate, maybe an olive farm in Tuscany.
A period of intense learning and acquiring new skills follows: how to raise chickens, pluck geese, breed cattle and sheep, and how to grow all kinds of vegetables. Soon they find out that farming means a never ending workload. They almost kill themselves ─and each other─ to produce healthy food.
I Once Had a Farm in Ireland not only gives advice for budding organic gardeners but it is also the story of a woman who sacrifices her own ideals for the sake of her family until she discovers her own dreams.
 
*****
 
Linda Lee Greene is the best-selling author of the true-life novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS http://goo.gl/imUwKO, and the co-author of the suspense novel JESUS GANDHI OMA MAE ADAMS http://amzn.to/VazHFG. Linda’s artwork is on view at www.gallery-llgreene.com. Linda’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor. Her Amazon Author’s Page is at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene, and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor, as well as on her Goodreads page at http://www.goodreads.com/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor
 
 
 
 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Missing Link

"Three Masts" Watercolor by Linda Lee Greene
In the opening years of the 1990s, I unexpectedly fell seriously ill with Ulcerative Colitis, later diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease, a disorder unfamiliar to me at the time. My research revealed that although the exact cause of Crohn’s is unknown, there is thought to be a genetic component to it. A staggering 20% of people with Crohn’s have a close family member such as a parent or sibling with the disease. The byword within the Crohn’s community is that it tends to “cluster” in families. Though it can raise its nasty head in any ethnic or racial group, it is commonest in Caucasian populations and alarmingly dense in Jews with Eastern European ancestry, also known as Ashkenazi Jews.

Depending on the studies you read, Crohn’s Disease is, or is not, considered an autoimmune disorder.  If it is, then one of the culprits in my case would likely be identified. This is due to the fact that since the age of sixteen, I have battled Graves' disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter and Flajani-Basedow-Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. It frequently results in hyperthyroidism and an enlarged thyroid, with a range of serious symptoms that absent treatment is life-threatening. Like Crohn’s Disease, the exact cause of Grave’s Disease is unclear, is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and is likely to “cluster” in families. For example, if one twin is affected, there is a 30% chance the other twin will also have the disease. In my immediate family, my maternal grandmother, my mother, and one of my three siblings, and I contracted it. That’s a whopping 50% of the off-spring of my parents who fell ill with this particular autoimmune disorder—that’s also 20% higher than the incidence of it in genetically identical twins. I’m not a geneticist, but if I were, I would follow that track like a scent-crazed bloodhound. It suggests to me that my particular autoimmune monster is a two-headed beast, one inherited from my mother, and the other from my father.

                Despite my noteworthy autoimmune behemoth, copious specialists in the field of gastrointestinal disorders involved in my particular bout with Crohn’s Disease weren’t much impressed with it, and suggested strongly that there was at least a 50% chance that I did have an ancestor hell-bent on doing me in with his/her bad gene. My guess is that they had inside information they were ill-inspired to share with me. But since I hold the dubious distinction as the only member of my family known to have ever been afflicted with Crohn’s Disease, where, then, is the stealthy genetic link?
I have long speculated that a person of high color found his/her way into my family’s otherwise pale woodpile. But as far as we know, ours is the traditional “Plymouth Rock” story: Irish/Welsh/English to the core, with a bit of German thrown in, and Native American, Cherokee specifically, linked to my paternal great-grandmother Annie Lane Green. Just look at me, my siblings, and most of our cousins, and the Anglo-Saxon/Celtic connections stand out boldly. Our Cherokee blood has proved resilient, as well, clear-cut in the high-flying cheekbones, convincing noses, and black/brown hair with brooding midnight eyes in most of my father’s paternal aunts and uncles, as well as in three of his eleven siblings, with some trickledown to the current generation. An image of Annie Lane survives—it is a family photo; she sits at the left hand of her husband (my great-grandfather Joshua Green), and behind them stand their several young off-spring, my father’s father Alderson Estep Green(e) the one that is the blondest and bluest-of-eyes among the entire group. To my mind, Joshua has always been the perplexing one in this line-up of hearty Appalachian humanity, however. For many years now, his proclaimed “Protestant Englishness” has not set well with me because I swear I see in his swarthy countenance a Persian, or a Turk, or a Jew.
                 In my quest to nab my underground nemesis, my mind cleaved to what it held to be the phantom olive-skinned presence in my paternal great-grandfather’s face and body and bearing. Could it be?! Could it be he who was the carrier of the Crohn’s gene, wrought through Ashkenazi Jewish DNA? Why not? He looked like a Jew. And…and…there is further circumstantial evidence of it—for example, the surname “Green.” Might it be a diminution of a Jewish name such as Greenbaum, Greenblatt, Greenstein, or the like? Joshua and Annie Lane Green were vigorous disciples of the Pentecostal arm of Protestant Christianity, a religious fervor reborn, and intensified, in most of their progeny, including my grandfather, the self-proclaimed “Reverend” Alderson Estep Greene(e). Their exuberance for the credo bordered on fanaticism, which wrought prejudice toward a broad spectrum of humanity, including Jews—of course Jews. It is a blight on my family, indeed on my nation, that this culture of xenophobia was pervasive then, and unfortunately exists today, although to a lesser degree, thankfully.
            You will also note the extra “e” that my grandfather added to his legal surname “Green.” The purpose behind it remains a mystery—a mystery to all but me, I submit, because I think it quite possible he did it to Anglicize his name, to my mind, a transparent camouflage of any appearance of a Jewish ethnicity, a circumstance that my Family Green either suspected, or knew to be the case, and that my grandfather went to extraordinary lengths to keep under wraps. By the way, the defective gene aside, I would be right proud if it were confirmed that I share an Ashkenazi bloodline with the likes of Mayer Amschel Rothschild; Marc Chagall; Albert Einstein; Sarah Bernhardt; Sigmund Freud; Stanley Kubrick; Golda Meir; Felix Mendelssohn, and countless others. 
              The Ashkenazi coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the 1st millennium. Upon the Christianization of Rome, unwelcome and fearing their wholesale extermination, they scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, in modern times banding together in great numbers in Israel. Both paternal and maternal pedigrees of the Ashkenazi show a genetic structure drawn towards the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, reflecting historical admixture events with Europeans. Located on the peripheries of Turkey, Iran, and Russia, the Caucasus usually has been incorporated into the Iranian world. At the beginning of the 19th century, it fell to the Russian Empire.
              Before Iran became the only remaining remnant of Persia, the vast Persian Empire spanned the ancient Near East, Egypt, and parts of India. It was a kingdom generous to its resident Jews, an environment that no doubt resulted in instances of new and far-reaching gene-pools. The Persians were a resourceful people. They were responsible for several significant cultural and administrative innovations, among them by way of one especially insightful soul, Zoroaster by name, the founder of the religious concept of monotheism, which many religious scholars believe to be the basis of the Hebrew and Christian religions.
 
              A fascinating mix of factual and mythological entities and events, Turkey's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia has also made it a land of significant geostrategic importance. With its one thousand kilometers of incomparable shoreline of the Aegean and Mediterranean waters, known as the Turkish Riviera or the Turquoise Coast, it has been a continuous and popular tourist destination. Apparently, later on, the jewel-like beauty of the Turquoise Coast landed it in Cleopatra’s vast collection of baubles. Rumor has it that Rome’s Mark Antony chose it as the most beautiful wedding gift he could bestow upon his beloved Egyptian Queen. The Greek gods and goddesses succumbed to its allure, as well, for within its volcanic mountain ranges, they played out their melodramas and comedies.  Additionally, Turkey was the birthplace of St. Nicholas, the doppelganger of Santa Claus. Herodotus, the Father of History was another of Turkey’s native sons.
              In the company of such shimmering personalities, I wonder if my presumed Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor also hailed from Persia, or Turkey, or somewhere closely akin to them, rather than from Germany, as my Anglo-Saxon blood would suggest? The human interplay in areas of commerce and personal relationships among Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, and other Mediterranean neighbors, many of them Ashkenazi Jews, separated by just the span of a relatively small body of water, was the melting pot in which the initial fortune-hunters that overran America was brewed. I have a basis upon which to entertain the possibility that the carrier of the flawed (Crohn’s) gene in my DNA was among them, as the following second part of this little drama will illustrate:    

The alternative to the aforementioned proposition is that the Ashkenazi Jewish blood that I think courses my veins comes from my Cherokee great-grandmother Annie Lane. She was the mail-order bride of my great-grandfather Joshua Green, and although I haven’t confirmed it in research, anecdotally this was a common practice in the late nineteenth century, and earlier. Like theirs, intermarriage among Native Americans prevalent along the eastern regions of the New World and its early foreign invaders was common. I can see it in my mind’s eye: my distant Semitic relative, perhaps kin through Persian blood to a contemporary of Zoroaster, or Turkish blood to neighbors of St. Nicholas or Herodotus—this bearded, turbaned, bangled, and sashed exotic was the great-great-grandsire of the similarly exotic buccaneer who jaunted onto the utopian soil of the New World, and swept off her feet, a nubile Cherokee maiden, and in them, was born “a new race.” It is entirely possible that the roles in my imagined scenario were inhabited by one of Annie Lane’s long-ago grandmothers and a Mediterranean sailor. It might even be probable given the large number of adventurers of that breed of humanity who sailed the early ships to America’s shores, many of them, to a greater or lesser degree, of Jewish extraction. If such a union were to be corroborated, it might go a long way in marking the starting point of the Crohn’s gene in my DNA.
              Why don’t I get a blood test? I’ve wondered about that too. I think the answer is that I really don’t want to know for sure. Ultimately, finding the missing link to the faulty gene isn’t as important to me as preserving this mystery. I prefer not knowing—knowing would take the fun out of it. It would remove the element of romance that I want to believe in for Annie Lane’s great-great-grandmother and her handsome swashbuckler—or of the lovely Ashkenazi Jewish girl whose sloe eyes melted the heart of a Persian lad and generations later found renewal in the heart of Joshua Green.  And besides, this mystery sets the stage for another novel. I think I’ll call it Footprints of the Cherokee.
*****
Linda Lee Greene is the best-selling author of the true-life novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS http://goo.gl/imUwKO, and the co-author with Debra Shiveley Welch of the suspense novel JESUS GANDHI OMA MAE ADAMS http://amzn.to/VazHFG. Linda’s artwork is on view at www.gallery-llgreene.com. Linda’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor. Her Amazon Author’s Page is at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene, and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor, as well as on her Goodreads page at http://www.goodreads.com/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor
 
               
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When We Read, We Look for Ourselves in the Words

When we read, we look for ourselves in the words. If we are unable or uninspired to find ourselves there, the words remain meaningless to us. The stories they convey become “throwaway” experiences, never to revisit our minds, never to summon our memories. But if we “become” the old man in Hemingway’s sea; if we “are” Daisy to Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, then literature “is” who we are, or at least, points to whom we might have been, or can be—it is the indelible yardstick against which we measure ourselves. Author Francis Hamit’s “Shenandoah Spy,” a novel of historical fiction based on the true story of Belle Boyd, a legendary female spy for the Confederacy during America’s Civil War, was one of those stories that metamorphosed into a subjective experience for me, and to such an extent that it was surprising to me—surprising and satisfying. Let me tell you why.
                Although I often read and write about history, the Civil War of the United States is not high on my list of subjects; not because it isn’t fascinating in its own right, but rather that it holds less weight for me than other histories such as that of America’s native people, the Great Depression, and World War II. My interest in “Shenandoah Spy,” however was sparked by a social media interchange with its author, an informed and shrewd interchange on his part in response to a posting I submitted on Facebook on the 35th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings in protest against the Vietnam War. I looked him up and discovered that he has an extensive background in military intelligence and espionage, a résumé I thought he might put to good use in the stories about which he writes. I ordered the book because of its “first-born” chronology in his body of work rather than its subject. But somewhere deep inside me, I also wanted to be “swayed” by a good Civil War story; I wanted to be brought into the fold. Hamit did not disappoint me on that point in “Shenandoah Spy.”
                How is it that in 2015, a reader in the senior years of her life (me) can be transported to a time a century-and-a-half ago and relate to a heroine of only seventeen-years-of-age (Belle Boyd)? The answer is found in Hamit’s presentation of Belle Boyd’s story. He makes room for the reader in the words. He writes with such intimacy and immediacy that it invites the reader to wonder how he/she would have behaved in Boyd’s stead. The reader suffers Boyd’s vulnerabilities; staggers in her exploits; quakes in her boots. And just as importantly for me, this author instilled in me a desire to pay closer attention to this era of my country’s history.   
                Despite my delight in “Shenandoah Spy,” conversely, an aspect of it niggles at my consciousness. Given that it takes place during, and in response to, the “slave-era” of America’s story, a supporting cast of African Americans is to be expected. There can be no such story absent that body of humanity. Hamit isn’t shy about offering a view of the Civil War as one less about “freeing the slaves” and more about other factors, though. The following conversation between characters Brodhead and Strother in the book illustrates this point: ‘“Not for freeing the slaves?” [asks Broadhead]. Strother had to think about it. “In time, on some abstract level, I might be, but this isn’t the way I’d choose to do it. Most people in the South don’t own slaves. They’ve been seduced into this thing by radical elements that wanted to break up the country, and seized upon the activities of the Abolitionists as an excuse.” “And those Abolitionists have stirred up the war fever on this side. Radicals on both sides have pushed this war into being. It could have been prevented.” Brodhead gestured with his hands as if to illustrate the futility of it all. Strother nodded. “The rich and privileged wanted a war and the rest of us will pay for it.”’

                In an excerpt further on in the story, Strother states. ‘“…Most Negroes [in the south] ain’t that displeased with their lot in life. ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ was a masterful load of horse manure when it came to representing the usual situation. You don’t abuse slaves, any more than you would a horse or a cow. It’s not good business and people frown on it. House servants especially have an easy life. They become a part of the family.”’ In that vein, Belle Boyd submits that the Yankees “…exaggerate the colored folks capacity and desire for freedom – those that want it find a way to buy themselves free.”’ Her personal slave Eliza is depicted as one such happy “servant.” Not only does Eliza aid and abet Boyd willingly in her daily life and her spying missions, she is depicted as a personal “friend” rather than as a slave of her mistress. Of course, Hamit puts forth the then self-serving point of view of southerners in his treatise. Following Solomon Northrup’s true story of cruelty suffered at the hands of a slave-owner in “Twelve Years a Slave” that found light in recent times, the portrayal of the master/slave relationship in “Shenandoah Spy” is difficult to reconcile. I suppose, as in any other human enterprise, the minutiae of America’s Civil War ranged every possibility available at the time. Many of those fine points are to be found in “Shenandoah Spy.” It is good reading.
***


Linda Lee Greene’s novel “Guardians and Other Angels” is at http://goo.gl/imUwKO. Her novel “Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams,” co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch, is at http://amzn.to/VazHFG. Her artwork is on view online at www.gallery-llgreene.com. Her Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor.        

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Spirit Moves, We'd Best Follow


In a few weeks, I will bring to a close my daily stint as a “Granny Nanny” to my grandsons Alixander and Noah. Two years ago, I retired from my position with a local interior design firm, rented out my home, and moved in with my daughter Elizabeth and the boys, then fourteen and eight, to help out as much as possible. This occurred as a result of the death of Elizabeth’s husband Mark.
          As the smoldering days of summer are at their peak this year, I will relocate once more. I will leave my daughter’s condo in neuvo-posh Powell, Ohio and return to my house in an elderly and modest neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio—on a good traffic day, only a forty-minute drive apart, but light-years distant in benchmarks used in the United States to gauge the quality of life available in them. For instance, while Powell boasts some of the best schools around, like most school systems in large cities across the nation, Columbus City Schools cripple along. In my youth, Powell was farmland, stretching north of Columbus as far as the eye could see, but which now comprises broad avenues of sprawling, multi-storied homes and “executive” condos essentially, all of which have Beemers, Benzes, Volvos and their equivalents parked in garages nearly as large as the whole of my little house in Columbus. Sans make-up, to which I’ve grown allergic, and minus a Juviderm pout, and sporting a post-menopausal JLo booty, and even though my roots need touched-up and I drive a Kia Soul rather than a vehicle standard for the area, now and then, and risking sensory overload, I insert myself into the blonde and boy-hipped female fray of Powell and do the dodge-‘em-grocery-carts thing at the Kroger Superstore. When absolutely necessary, I also flash a credit card in the feathered-out establishments along Sawmill Boulevard, one of the region’s de rigueur shopping areas. But despite my pluck, there is no way around the fact that for the long haul, I do not belong in Powell. I am just no good at “keeping up appearances,” which is a requirement here. My daughter is a natural at it. She was born chic. Her soul requires it. My soul, on the other hand, while deeply proud and accepting of Elizabeth’s innate elegance and grace, compels me toward a plainer and simpler way of being.
        And so, in August, I will return to my humble home in Columbus. My portion of Universal Spirit, which has been there all along, hiding in nooks and crannies invisible to its tenants, will greet me at the door, and let out a sigh of contentment. “Oh, let’s unpack those boxes and put the furniture back in place,” it will exclaim happily. While Spirit has been stirring all of this within my soul, it has been busy inside of Elizabeth’s, too. Independent to her core since the day of her birth, she is ready and eager to take up her life on her own again; to expand into the rooms I occupy now, and to set up her office and workout space; to convert the family room into a hangout for my grandsons and their friends. There is another element to this crowded mix. My son Frank also moved in with us a year ago. A long-time resident of New Jersey, Frank was one of the thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy, from a financial standpoint that is, and had to come home. He will move into my house with me for a year or so, time he will likely need to completely re-establish himself here.  
        It is a universal truth that life wastes nothing, and although my Spirit yearns for a place of my own other than Powell, there was, and continues to be until the day a truck pulls up to my daughter’s condo door to haul me away, additional purposes, beyond the obvious, for my being here. This is far more than my “Granny Nanny” story. This two-year-block-of-time has been a veritable laboratory for Spirit; each of the five human beings subject to it have been individual Petrie dishes of experimentation for it—Petrie dishes of flagrant emotions; of bruised and bolstered egos; of tested and strengthened integrities; of shattered illusions; of acquired wisdom; of gained respect; of acceptance; of renewed commitments, of love. But among all of the subjects of this particular curriculum that Spirit had/has in mind, I think that forgiveness was/is its paramount goal. I do not care how exemplary our performances as parents, and I fell short in too many primary ways in that regard, there always exists fallout among parents and their children, especially their grown children. But Spirit grabbed each of us by our shoulders and guided us firmly, carefully, lovingly around one another, and ultimately toward one another. We prevailed! We came out of this human trial better persons, one and all!
        Like the lingering effects of a summer lover left behind, the memories of my two-year sojourn in Powell will become indelible pages in my book of life, for it was here that my daughter, my grandsons, my son, and I reconnected; it was here that our family bond was forged anew. Yes, I feel free to go my own way again because the time is right for all of us to do so. But more than that, I can go because I feel forgiven by my children, at last. Not all of us are given such an opportunity, and I am grateful for it!



Linda Lee Greene is the best-selling author of the true-life novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS http://goo.gl/imUwKO, and the co-author with Debra Shiveley Welch of the suspense novel JESUS GANDHI OMA MAE ADAMS http://amzn.to/VazHFG. Linda’s artwork is on view at www.gallery-llgreene.com. Linda’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor. Her Amazon Author’s Page is at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene, and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor, as well as on her Goodreads page at http://www.goodreads.com/LindaLeeGreeneAuthor

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review of TO FAME’S PROUD CLIFF by Bob W. Dunbar


In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the United States of America was in its adolescence, comprised primarily of its Eastern Seaboard and easternmost Midwest regions. Other than bustling New Orleans, the Louisiana Purchase was “unorganized” land; the Oregon Country threatened to become another colony of the British Empire; and the Southwest, including California, was under Mexican rule, as was present-day Texas. The Caucasian population of the United States at the time, driven by its fierce sense of nationalism, rationalized its greed for expansion. Its burning desire was a nation of uninterrupted land from the east-to-west coasts, and north-to-south from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Author Bob W. Dunbar, in his fine book TO FAME’S PROUD CLIFF, addresses a portion of America’s expansion story as it unfolded through the lives of two giants among men then, namely Andrew Jackson and Samuel Houston. Although deeply flawed in their separate personal aspects, as well as controversial, then as now, in their respective world-views, the two men were steadfast cohorts responsible in fundamental ways for much of the territorial growth of the United States.         
As a writer of historical fiction, I am well-aware of an author’s challenge in taking the two-dimensional historical figures as written in school books and expanding them into three-dimensional characters for a novel. In TO FAME’S PROUD CLIFF, Dunbar has created flesh-and-blood characters that are so real they practically jump off the page. As portrayed in this book, Houston’s yearning for a “big” life captures the imagination of the reader and recruits him/her to that epic endeavor. Houston’s uncompromising commitment to his mentor and surrogate father-figure Andrew Jackson also bends the reader’s will to the same cause. And the reader gets drunk, depressed, discouraged, wounded, sober, energized, renewed, and healed in tandem with Houston by way of Dunbar’s capable hand.
In addition, a writer’s job is to create sympathetic protagonists, and despite my ingrained prejudice against Andrew Jackson, wrought by the Cherokee blood coursing my veins, after reading TO FAME’S PROUD CLIFF, although not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt exactly, I am willing to entertain the notion that alongside his quest for glory and immortality in enlarging his country, a smidgen of altruism existed in Jackson’s Indian Removal policies, if for no other reason than to save the indigenous people from total extinction at the hands of individual whites. That too, is the rationale Dunbar gave me in response to my Facebook Private Message to him on the issue of Jackson vs Native Americans. Maybe Dunbar’s speculation on this matter fills the gap in what reasonably should have been irreconcilable differences between Jackson and Houston, that of Jackson’s seeming inhumane attitude toward Native Americans and Houston’s love of, and devotion to, them. For a time in his youth, and again in later years, Houston actually lived among the Cherokee—was an adopted son of the Cherokee Chief Oolooteka (Ahuludegi), also called “John Jolly” by European Americans. And among Jackson’s three children, all of whom were adopted, two of them were Native Americans. Of course, altruism does not necessarily explain his choice of progeny. I guess, one of my points here is that this book has caused me to ponder, and to consider searching for more information on its topic.          
                That Dunbar engaged in meticulous research of the historical period depicted in this book is apparent. His rendition of that history is couched in a well-written story that is informative and engaging. It held my interest from its opening page to its last. TO FAME’S PROUD CLIFF is a valuable addition to the bookshelves and eReaders of lovers of historical fiction and/or biographies.



Linda Lee Greene’s novel “Guardians and Other Angels” is at http://goo.gl/imUwKO
Linda Lee Greene’s novel “Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams,” co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch, is at http://amzn.to/VazHFG
Linda Lee Greene’s artwork is on view online at www.gallery-llgreene.com

Linda Lee Greene’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor.