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review 2018-09-05 08:37
Under The Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith - Jon Krakauer

This extraordinary work of investigative journalism takes readers inside America’s isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities, where some 40,000 people still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God. At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Under the Banner of Heaven investigates a true crime story that unfolded during the summer of 1984 within the Mormon Fundamentalist community. Brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered a woman and her baby daughter, later claiming that they were ordered by God to do it. 

 

Krakauer uses this crime case as a basis for writing a behind-the-curtain look at Mormon Fundamentalist culture -- the history, the general belief system, even the "underbelly", if you will, where one will find a growing population of people struggling with various stages of mental illness. Severe depression is on the rise in this community and suicide attempts are no longer uncommon. Also to be found are increased reports of incest, molestation, and sexual assaults. It's believed that this particular problem is because the topic of sex / sex education is so strongly repressed within the community, especially among the female population. Even married couples seem to dance around the topic when it comes to trying to openly talk about it. Krakauer even manages to incorporate the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case, looking at the creepy, tragic details of the crime and how her abductors (Mormons who turned Fundamentalist) were able to brainwash her into submission (In interviews in recent years, Smart has since come out and implied that her brainwashing was merely an act she put on to captors as a means to stay alive).

 

"We have the greatest and smoothest liars in the world."

~ Brigham Young

 

When Krakauer focuses on the Lafferty murder case, we learn that the Lafferty brothers grew up with a violent disciplinarian father, forced to watch him carry out violent acts on their mother or other children, at one point even beating the family dog to death. The father was also a believer in healing serious illness with fervent prayers rather than modern medicine. Or so Krakauer's research showed... but when Dan Lafferty himself was interviewed, he claimed he had a very happy, loving childhood. But even there, Krakauer later turns up evidence that Lafferty brought violence into his own marriage after reading a book on polygamy that claimed that women were to be looked at as "a subservient ox". It turns out Dan originally intended to take his oldest stepdaughter as his first plural wife, but later decided on a young Romanian immigrant who was working at Robert Redford's horse ranch nearby who claimed she was "open to new experiences". (Not the kind of thing people typically mean when they say that, but okay).

 

Brenda, the murder victim, was the sister-in-law of Ron and Dan, married to their brother Allen. She was also the only one of the Lafferty wives who was college educated. She was known in the community to be book smart with an independent spirit, not afraid to debate theology, and she would also encourage other wives in the community to stick up for themselves. Ron blamed Brenda for his own wife, Dianna, leaving him, taking their kids with her. A God-decreed murder, my foot! 

 

In addition to the true crime investigation, readers also get a look into the general history of Mormonism, all the way back to Joseph Smith & Brigham Young days, some of which might be new or forgotten info to today's readers -- such as the fact that Joseph Smith actually ran for President of the United States in 1844, but obviously lost to James Polk.

 

An earnest, good-natured kid with a low boredom threshold, Joseph Junior had no intention of becoming a debt-plagued farmer like his father, toiling in the dirt year in and year out. His talents called for a much grander arena. Although he received no more than a few years of formal schooling as a boy, by all accounts he possessed a nimble mind and an astonishingly fecund imagination... Gregarious, athletic, and good-looking, he was a regular raconteur whom both men and women found immensely charming. His enthusiasm was infectious. He could sell a muzzle to a dog...

 

In the beginning, Joseph Smith had emphasized the importance of personal revelation for everyone... he instructed Mormons to seek direct "impressions from the Lord," which should guide them in every aspect of their lives. Quickly, however, Joseph saw a major drawback to such a policy: if God spoke directly to all Mormons, who was to say that the truths he revealed to Joseph had greater validity than contradictory truths He might reveal to somebody else? With everyone receiving revelations, the prophet stood to lose control of his followers. Joseph acted fast to resolve this dilemma by announcing in 1830 -- the same year the Mormon Church was incorporated -- that God had belatedly given him another revelation: "No one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr." But the genie was already out of the bottle... People liked talking to God directly, one-on-one, without intermediaries... Thus, even after Joseph told his followers that henceforth they were forbidden to receive divine commandments concerning church doctrine, many of these Saints quietly ignored the edict and continued to heed the voice of God, whether he was talking to them about matters of theology or personal issues.

 

 

 

We also get more examples of Joseph Smith's raging hormones and Emma Smith's long, losing battle with trying to keep her husband monogamous. William Law, Emma's friend as well as one of Joseph's counselors, urged Joseph to cool it down a bit with the ladies, but to no avail. Their friendship was later broken when Joseph kept making passes at William's wife.

 

Neither Emma's tears nor her rage were enough to make Joseph monogamous...neither were the prevailing mores of the day. He kept falling rapturously in love with women not his wife. And because that rapture was so wholly consuming and felt so good, it struck him as impossible that God might possibly frown on such a thing. Joseph wasn't by nature reflective of deliberative. He conducted his life impulsively, acting according to instinct and emotion. The Lord, it seemed to him, must surely have intended man to know the love of more than one woman or He wouldn't have made the prospect so enticing.

 

Between 1840 and 1844 God instructed the prophet to marry some forty women. Most were shocked and revolted when Joseph revealed what the Lord had in mind for them. Several were still prepubescent girls, such as fourteen year old Helen Mar Kimball. Although she acquiesced when the prophet explained that God had commanded her to become his plural wife -- and that she would be permitted twenty-four hours to comply -- Helen later confided to a friend, "I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."

 

Joseph married Helen Mar Kimball in Nauvoo in May 1843, Earlier that same month, young Lucy Walker was also wed to the prophet after being similarly coerced...When the horrified girl balked at his proposal, Joseph explained to Lucy that if she refused she would face eternal damnation. "I have no flattering words to offer," he said. "It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you."

 

Throughout this period of frenzied coupling, Joseph adamantly denied that he endorsed plural marriage, let alone engaged in the practice himself. "When the facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last," he asserted in a speech given to the people of Nauvoo in May 1844. "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can find only one. I am the same man, innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers."

 

William decided to try his hand at making his own branch of Mormonism, the Reformed Mormon Church. He even printed pamphlets denouncing Joseph, claiming him a fraud. William's printing press was destroyed by Joseph's brother, Hyrum and an angry mob was rounded up to drive William out of town. Joseph and Hyrum had charges brought against them for their roles in the destruction of William's property. While they sat in jail, a different angry mob burst in and killed them both in a hail of gunfire. Specifically, Joseph himself was shot, sent out a window, shot again and then bayonetted, dying at a mere 38 years of age. 

Sidenote: There's also a discussion in this book about the Mountain Meadow Massacre. John D. Lee was ultimately executed for his role in the murders but just prior to death was quoted as saying that if he was innocent, Brigham Young would be dead in six months. As it turns out, Young was dead five months and six days after Lee's execution, but the cause of death is presumed to be from a probable burst appendix.

 

 

So in a nutshell, I guess Under The Banner Of Heaven is, in a way, a collective look at the history of violence that's gone down over the years within the Mormon Fundamentalist community, though largely kept quiet and swept under the "God's Work" rug. I didn't find the book completely entralling start to finish, there were some dry bits for me, but then again it definitely had plenty of jaw dropping moments in there as well. Recommended if you're at all interested in either true crime cases or reading about the more taboo side of the Mormon faith. 

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review 2018-08-02 21:29
Having It All (Even If You're Starting With Nothing) by Helen Gurley Brown
Having It All - Helen Gurley Brown

The editor of "Cosmopolitan" gives advice on dealing with men and women, sex, marriage, career success, becoming more attractive, making money, and staying healthy with frank accounts of her own experiences in those areas.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Helen Gurley Brown was the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine in the format we know today. There was a version of the magazine in existence, owned by Hearst Corporation, prior to Brown coming on board, but she explains here that the content and layout of the publication was notably different. When the magazine in its original form started financially failing, Brown was hired on to turn things around and revamped it into the format recognizable in grocery store aisles to this day (Chapter 2... man, all I could think of was the movie Working Girl lol). *Well, actually... let's give credit where credit is due --- HGB points out that it was her husband who often wrote the cover blurbs, designed the layout, and more often than not, it was the stories HE liked that ended up being the ones they ran with. 

 

Brown never bothered with college, instead starting her professional life in her 20s, working her way up the ranks first as a secretary and later script girl for the Abbott & Costello radio show. She also wrote script copy for radio commercials of the day. Raised by a mother threatened by a prettier sister, Helen Gurley Brown rarely ever heard the word "pretty" tossed in her direction. As a young woman, she becomes obsessive about her looks so later heading up a women's beauty magazine seemed like a natural fit. Some may be shocked to read just how honest HGB is about the work she had done to attain that "pretty" so often withheld from her in her early years: eye lifts, rhinoplasty, dermabrasion, years-long treatments of silicone injections around her nose and mouth.. just to name a bit of it... but at least she also does advocate the regular use of sunscreen! She also describes details on lax post-op care, at one point opting to sneak out to see Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall. 

 

Also not surprising, HGB was clearly consumed with designer labels and makes sly knocks on those with more tomboy style. Additionally, there was one little two page section where she talks about brains being more important than looks but then later goes on to further knock "non-pretties" in a rather patronizing tone, stating that "thoughts and deeds do absolutely nothing for a forgettable face... but a little helping out, ie. makeup or plastic surgery, can." WOW. 

 

 

 

Her discussions on sex get a little weird, y'all. She gets into some probably better left unsaid details of her bed life with husband David Brown (David Brown co-operated a production company with Richard Zanuck, son of Daryl Zanuck, once-president of 20th Century Fox. Brown/Zanuck's company produced films such as Jaws 1 & 2 and The Sting. Apparently, life with David taught her that "men don't want to know about you masturbating." K... noted... WTF. She also spends many pages frequently rhapsodizing about mens' down belows and even offers readers a step by step instructional on fellatio. NOT. EVEN. KIDDING. (Here we go, this book -- originally published in 1982 -- will now show an odd resurgence in sales LOL). She closes with a quaint "swallowing is a sign of affection." Que one of those Bob Belcher OMGs. 

 

 

Then there's the recommendation about occasionally murmuring "would you mind" during sex. LOL. No. Just no. Oh, the laughs this section provides though! 

 

Except, not a laughing matter... what is this bit about nonchalantly referencing incest with her uncle when she was 9?! Seriously, some parts in this book had me wondering if this woman had a wire or four loose the casual way she brought up certain topics. 

 

Her advice on finding men and later marriage success is perhaps questionable though. Where to find men? HGB suggests maybe checking out Alcoholics Anonymous or Tiffany's at Christmas. Already married? HGB totally cool with extra-marital affairs, because, in her mind, people only remain faithful if they don't require romance. Furthermore, she says to not tell others if you are involved in an affair because "you owe it to your husband's honor." JFC. But actually... about on par for Cosmo advice, I guess!

 

If you get through all that, there are portions of actual advice scattered throughout.... much of it dated, most of it laughable, but a small percentage of it still remains surprisingly helpful. Some of the ones that stood out to me (good or bad):

 

Re: Love

 

* On finding men: HGB says women need to aspire to amazing high-level jobs with lots of pay and power, because really hot men won't find you if you're just the entry-level or even SAH sort. 

 

* keeping a man: a woman stands a better chance "if you love something other than him"

 

* HGB also offers some tips on married life -- how to navigate hurdles such as a spouse losing a job -- that are not entirely unhelpful. 

 

 

Re: Career

 

* Hone in on what your specialty skills are and pursue work in that direction, make your overall personality open and welcoming and be sure to have or develop a sense of humor about the journey! 

 

* Learn to be "quietly aggressive" -- keep eagle eyes on what needs to be done and just get it done

 

* Make confident, solid decisions, learn not to dwell on rejection. Remember that powerful people can still be vulnerable but use moments of hurt to fuel you further in your work.

 

* Problems don't magically disappear once you're at the top, you just have better resources to handle them. Also, once you reach the top, don't forget to help people behind you still trying to get there. 

 

Re: Personal Growth

 

* HGB encourages readers to take up charity / volunteer work. Not only is it good to help but it develops useful multi-tasking skills

 

* Embracing alone time plays a key factor in personal emotional growth.

 

* HGB gives you some ideas on how to strengthen friendships and / or how to handle frenemies

 

* This woman is going to harp on and on about this term she came up with called "mouseburgering": when you start out feeling low about yourself but quietly gain confidence over time until you eventually rise to the top. Brace yourself. She's gonna bring it up A. LOT. It's not the concept I have an issue with. It's just a stupid f-in word.  

 

 

In addition to all that, Brown also dishes out some hilariously (though sometimes borderline dangerous) 1980s style health tips. She promotes the idea of semi-starvation to keep a trim figure -- her personal plan being starvation for breakfast up until dinner where one is allowed one big meal and then later a pre-bed snack. At least she admits to the dangers of bulimia (she doesn't actually use the term but that is essentially what she describes). She also encourages 36 hour fasts after binges and notes that the use of saccharine (aka Equal) is her "guilty cheat food".

 

"As I write this, a new artificial sweetener, aspartame, is being test-marketed. I've used it and it's sensational. Put out by G.D. Searle & Co under the brand name Equal, it should be available for all of us soon."

 

Brown continues on to offer her stance on the whole "are models too thin?" argument, to which she firmly replies, "Models are not cadaverous, they look great." Remember, this was in the 80s and this debate is STILL going on in the fashion industry. There's also a story here where she knocks singer Peggy Lee for struggling with dieting, "zooming back up to 150".

 

So, yeah, take HGB's diet advice with a HARDCORE grain of salt. This woman clearly had issues with unhealthy body image that she foisted onto vulnerable young readers. Her sex advice, have a good laugh with it like you would any Cosmo issue today. The tone is definitely geared towards a female audience, but there is still plenty of take-away advice for the men as well. But again, use your own discretion as to what you would actually take to heart. 

 

Image result for bob belcher gif

 

Also keep in mind that this will read dated as hell -- eg. "We'll see how Princess Diana makes it (as far as her HEA as a princess)..." eeehhh --- but the dated references are actually part of what still make this thing readable in today's world... the historical look back, the ridiculousness of some of the passages. The actual advice, not so much. Also, the continuous unnecessary transitions will drive you batty: "More in a moment", "more on that later", "now let's talk about"... c'mon girl, you were the head honcho at a major magazine!

 

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review 2018-08-01 18:14
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today by Leslie Marmon Silko
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit - Leslie Marmon Silko

Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko's essays evoke the spirit and voice of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or exploding in outrage over the government's long-standing, racist treatment of Native Americans, Silko does so with eloquence and power, born from her profound devotion to all that is Native American. 

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In this collection of essays, Silko, a member of the Pueblo Nation, discusses art, symbolism, and overall cultural growth within the Pueblo community. Some of the topics covered in Yellow Woman (the title of the book coming from one of the essays enclosed):

 

ART

 

* Symbolism in Pueblo art, ie. use of squash blossom on pottery designs = possible berringer of death, lightning imagery could mean good fortune, karmaj petals used for their symetry to represent four corners of the earth or four elements  (fire, water, earth, air). Discussion of how some imagery is used to illustrate the earth being simultaneously complex and fragile

 

* "Yellow Woman" an image of Pueblo mythology, a goddess highly regarded for her bravery, strength, calm demeanor during catastrophe, and her "uninhibited sexuality" Rather than relying on violence and destruction to assure victories, "Yellow Woman" bewitches foes simply through her sensuality and self confidence.

 

FAMILY / SOCIETAL STRUCTURE & PREJUDICES

 

* Silko writes that her own family is a blend of Pueblo, Mexican and Caucasian and her own struggles of "not looking right" to any of these groups. She speaks lovingly of her "dark and handsome" great-grandmother who "exuded confidence and strength", but admits that the woman might not have been considered traditionally beautiful by either Caucasians or Pueblo people, which opens up an essay discussion for how beauty, the thing itself, is interpreted by different cultures. Silko notes that facial differences are highly prized among the Pueblo people. 

 

*Discussion of how the idea of gender norms or "mens' work vs. womens' work" doesn't really have a place in Pueblo culture, only a matter of if you are able-bodied enough to get the job done.. so you find women doing construction and men doing basket weaving and child care. People just go where they are needed. 

 

*Historically, Pueblo people were originally fine with sexual fluidity and up until the arrival of the Puritans, openly supported LGBTQ members of the tribe. Also, babies born out of wedlock were not an issue because unplanned or not, the life was honored as life. If not wanted by the biological parents, the newborn was simply given to a barren woman within the tribe to raise. 

 

The discussions on art and culture were interesting but there was something quietly underneath that just had a feel of Silko sometimes talking down to her readers. Some of the essays repeat topics and even certain passages are duplicated verbatim from one essay into another, which I found incredibly disappointing and lazy. I know some of these pieces were previously printed elsewhere, but certain essays she must have been sitting on for a long while. For instance, one that is noted as having been previously published in 1996 -- "Auntie Kie talks about US Presidents and US Policy" -- but within that essay Silko talks about telling her aunt about an upcoming article Silko is to have published, "What Another Four Years Of Ronald Reagan Will Mean to Native Americans" (Reagan announced his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994). 

 

So while some of the topics were interesting, I thought the collection as a whole was kind of sloppily put together. Also, if you haven't read any of Silko's fiction, there are spoilers for some of her short stories within these essays.

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-14 01:29
The Complete Maus (25th Anniversary Ed.) by Art Spiegelman | Holocaust Remembrance Week
The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).
Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Inspired by the Holocaust experience of his own parents, cartoonist Art Spiegelman writes and illustrates this Pulitzer Prize wining story of a grown son, also a cartoonist (yes, this one is in the meta / semi-autobio style) who sits down with his father, Vladek  Spiegelman, to record Vladek's story with the intent to publish it. Perhaps to soften some of the more violent aspects of Vladek's story, the tale is told anthropomorphically-- Nazi soldiers are portrayed as big, burly cats, Jewish prisoners are mice, and one African-American man is illustrated as a black dog. 

 

 

Vladek starts with the story of meeting his wife, Anja, and their years together as newlyweds prior to the war. In 1938, Anja develops post-partum depression and is taken to a sanitarium in Czechoslovakia where she experiences, for the first time, full-force anti-Semitism. From there, the war story of Anja and Vladek only gets more painful. Even Anja's millionaire parents couldn't buy her safety. Once captured, Vladek explains that he was able to get some leniency with the Germans because even though his family was Polish, he could speak and write in German, so the Nazis found him useful. 

 

This special anniversary edition features the entire story, Vols 1 & 2, together in one book. As I mentioned before, the story does dip in and out of meta style storytelling. Towards the middle of the book, there is a kind of mini-comic insert where author Art Spiegelman tells the real life tragic story of his own mother's suicide. This book as a whole is not for the faint of heart. There are illustrations of mice with nooses around their necks, descriptions of children being picked up by their legs and swung into brick walls to stop them from crying / screaming (the noise giving away the location of those in hiding). Near the end of Vol. 2 there is also pretty detailed description of the interiors of the gas chambers. This edition also features one color map (the rest of the book is done in black and white) that shows the full layout of the Auschwitz camp. 

 

 

 

Blended with the Holocaust theme, Spiegelman also brings in a modern day father-son relationship story of a grown man honestly trying to make the effort to finally, hopefully, understand the father who has always slightly confounded him. There are some tense life truths brought to the table during these scenes but it provided a relatable, poignant layer to the whole experience that I came to really appreciate. 

 

If you're now reading this thinking, "Man, there is no way I could get through anything that dark," Spiegelman might have had such readers in mind because he does offer moments of levity as well. There's the somewhat scary but also creepy-humorous story of Lucia, the woman who went Stage 5 Clinger on Vladek when he became interested in someone else.

 

 

 

 

Old man Vladek is also dad-funny during his conversations with his son, saying things like "famous like that one guy".... I don't know though, there were a few moments there where old Vladek was coming off as pretty strongly racist himself... so it left me with mixed feelings about him. 

 

I'm glad I finally took the opportunity to experience this epic graphic novel I've heard so much about over the years. The story is a tough one to take, but important to hear. Truthfully though, I'm not sure it's one I see myself revisiting, at least not any time soon. 

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review 2018-02-21 10:05
Snow-Storm In August by Jefferson Morley
Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 - Jefferson Morley

On the night of August 4th, Arthur Bowen, an eighteen-year-old slave, stumbled into the bedroom where his owner, Anna Thornton, slept. He had an ax in the crook of his arm. An alarm was raised, and he ran away. Word of the incident spread rapidly, and within days, Washington's first race riot exploded, as whites fearing a slave rebellion attacked the property of the free blacks. Residents dubbed the event the “Snow-Storm," in reference to the central role of Beverly Snow, a flamboyant former slave turned successful restaurateur, who became the target of the mob's rage. In the wake of the riot came two sensational criminal trials that gripped the city. Prosecuting both cases was none other than Francis Scott Key, a politically ambitious attorney famous for writing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” who few now remember served as the city's district attorney for eight years. Key defended slavery until the twilight's last gleaming, and pandered to racial fears by seeking capital punishment for Arthur Bowen. But in a surprise twist his prosecution was thwarted by Arthur's ostensible victim, Anna Thornton, a respected socialite who sought the help of President Andrew Jackson. Ranging beyond the familiar confines of the White House and the Capitol, Snow-Storm in August delivers readers into an unknown chapter of American history with a textured and absorbing account of the racial secrets and contradictions that coursed beneath the freewheeling capital of a rising world power.

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

The synopsis gives you the gist of the "snow-storm" portion of this book, the largely forgotten 1835 race riot in Washington D.C., primarily between white lawmakers / defenders and former slaves, a key (if unintended) player being the bi-racial (male) chef & restaurateur Beverly Snow. Snow not only suffers attacks on his business but also has his home vandalized and the safety of his family threatened. 

 

That story alone would be powerful enough but Morley's work here -- an expansion on his 2005 Washington Post article -- offers readers so much more. We also get an education in the early development stages of our nation's capital, then known simply as Washington City. Morley also gets into the topic of colonization and which of D.C.'s bigwigs were on what side. You might be surprised to learn how it pans out! 

 

Some of my takeaways from this book:

 

RE: DEVELOPMENT OF WASHINGTON D.C.:

 

* Where to set up shop for the nation's capital? Hmmm. Well, the U.S. had racked up a mountain of debt after the War of Independence. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton wanted to set up the capital in Pennsylvania but Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson countered, saying he had a debt plan but Southern members of Congress would never go for it unless Congress' Northerners agreed to set up the capital in a more southern region. Pennsylvania was also largely anti-slavery, had a strong Quaker (recognized abolitionists) population. Jefferson recommended putting the capital along Virginia-Maryland territory, where there were good banking options and slavery was still legal. Hamilton appeared to have no objection. 

 

* The design for D.C. was modeled after Paris -- the canals, boulevards, stately buildings -- so much so that George Washington even hired French engineer Pierre L'Enfant to oversee the project. Prior to this Parisian design, author Charles Dickens had had a visit to the city and likened it to a wild, western frontier town. Morley adds, " 'The whole affair,' said another visitor, ' looked as if some giant had scattered a box of his child's toys at random on the ground.'

 

* D.C.'s Capitol Bldg was designed by William Thornton, a slaveholder who pushed for colonization. In one story in this book, Thornton came to the aid of the battered wife of a French diplomat, proclaiming, "I know the laws of humanity and I mean to uphold them." Thornton was also rumored to be the father of Arthur Bowen, son of Maria, house servant to Anna Thornton (William's wife).

 

Personally, I was left with mixed feelings on Thornton. Morley describes him as having "a thirst for liberty but a weak will", creative dreamer type, high ideals, distracted easily but highly personable... but he also seemed to lack much of a backbone, often going with majority rule.

 

 

 

COLONIZATION

 

* The Commonwealth of Virginia had an 1806 law on the books that basically said that freed slaves must leave the state within a year or they could be apprehended and sold back into slavery, only being allowed to stay within the Commonwealth area past that first year IF they could get a signed endorsement from a white citizen, petitioning the state legislature to allow the freed person in question to stay. 

 

* By the 1830s, colonization had become quite the divisive topic around Washington. Colonization was the suggested idea that freed slaves could be sent back to Africa to set up a new colony of freed people. There were supporters for this idea in both white and black communities. White racists saw it as a way to get rid of those they deemed second-class citizens, while some black communities saw it as an ideal opportunity to distance themselves from said racists and slaveholders who seemed determined to make free life miserable for them. But colonization was sort of an all or nothing proposition... the intent was that if some went, everyone had to go... and some, as in the case with Beverly Snow, had a perfectly good life in DC that they didn't want to give up. There was quite a large group of supporters for the idea though, including some of Snow's white friends! 

 

RE: BEVERLY SNOW

 

* By the 1830s, Washington D.C. had developed a solid horse racing community. Even President Andrew Jackson was said to make a big show of placing bets (though it seems his luck wasn't so good lol). Beverly Snow first developed clientele in the city as a street vendor outside racing arenas. After developing some success on that front, he went on to open an oyster house, becoming the first restaurateur to offer fine dining experiences in D.C. Pity that a cholera outbreak in 1832 ended up wiping out nearly 500 citizens, putting a bit of a dent in his business! But he hangs in there, and once the first restaurant does well, he moves on to open a second, even more upscale establishment. 

 

* Snow was pretty innovative for his time when it came to the restaurant business! He became well known for his turtle soup, which he would offer only periodically, advertising that the soup was "restorative"... see? promo-ing health benefits, whether they're proven or not! By the way, consider yourself warned here, vegans/ vegetarians: Morley includes a play-by-play of how this turtle soup was prepared. 

 

AND THEN THERE'S THE WHOLE FRANCIS SCOTT KEY BIT

 

* Famously penned the poem that would later turn into the U.S. national anthem... many years after it was set to the music of a drinking song we stole from our British cousins ;-) The popularity of that poem turned out to be a much needed reputation restorer for Key after an embarrassing display of turn-tail-and-run during the War of 1812. Key had the poem published in papers, later got the idea to set it to music. Also, weirdly, barely mentioned any of this to his wife but thoroughly discussed with his brother-in-law, Roger Taney. Taney was a racist lawyer famous for the Dred Scott case as well as his backing of a South Carolina law allowing black seamen to be arrested once they stepped off their in-port ships.

 

* Supporter of colonization and, it seems, not quite so anti-slavery as you might have been taught in school. Key had a public persona for being an ally for black citizens, periodically defending them in court (at least at the beginning of his legal career), but his actions in his off-time suggested opposite leanings. 

 

* Key, who served as D.C. district attorney for 8 years, was called in as prosecuting attorney for both the Snow case and that of Arthur Bowen, (see Thornton sect. above). Bowen was said to have been found in the bedroom of Anna Thornton one night, holding an ax over her head as she slept. Arthur's mother was also in the room (asleep) at the time, once awakened was able to usher Arthur out of the room, tried to get him out of the house but police had already been summoned. Key sought capital punishment for Bowen. 

        > Anna Thornton tried to fight for Arthur's freedom. For his protection, she tried to get him resold before his trial date but everyone she appealed to declined to help her. Anna went directly to Key, even requested a meeting with President Jackson himself, after writing him an 18 page letter (which she got in a carriage, rode to WH and hand delivered herself!) pleading Arthur's case, this letter including a petition sheet full of signatures from others also begging for the man's freedom. Bombarded with all this, Jackson eventually instructed Key to go along with the request. 

       >Two days after Arthur's arrest, abolitionist Reuben Crandall was arrested for being suspected of distributing anti-slavery periodicals / pamphlets (Good laugh over the bit that discusses Key's own words being turned on him during this trial!). A white mob developed shortly after and since they couldn't get to Crandall, they went after Beverly Snow (after a rumor got around that Snow was liberally tossing around "coarse or derogatory remarks" regarding white women of Washington. Snow's professional successes combined with his perceived cockiness had already made him the enemy of many white men in town. 

       > Snow escaped harm to himself but the mob did trash his home & establishment, though they were instructed not to break any of the furniture, as Snow had it on loan from a white man.  

 

 

Though it does take a bit of time (approx. 120 pages) to get into the bulk of the race riot topic, the "snow-storm" as it's termed, the history here is fascinating. BTW, also mentioned in this book: the bungled / thwarted assassination attempt on Andrew Jackson.

 

It doesn't leave you with the most glowing image of some of our country's most notable names in history, but it is history that is vitally important to be aware of just the same. Morley also includes an inset of pages featuring photographs, paintings, and news articles of the period showcasing some of the key players in this unsavory bit of history. 

 

 

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