Annette and education
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To make the point that even middle-class kids didn't get toys in WWII Britain, thanks to factories and employees focused on the war effort, I show how a chamberpot doubled as a helmet. I have no shame. Truly.
In my Could You Be A World War II Kid? presentation for schools, I slyly use the Blitz to introduce a subject close to the hearts of kids: Toilets. History, I point out, is not just about dates and presidents and battles. Historians study EVERYTHING. I ask them to hypothesize about what they would do if they were time-travelers, living through a World War II London air raid at two in the morning, and realizing that they needed to pee. Inevitably, one kid says (s)he would pee in a corner, while another says (s)he would pee on her/himself: I suggest (to much laughter) that they would have an air raid shelter to themselves, since nobody else would want to be with them.
Finally, I hold up a chamberpot, and explain why it would have been used in 1940 even if households had flushing toilets. Kids are impressed and grossed. And then we talk about why that is, and how that attitude to chamberpots is a reflection of historical change. I recall my one Scottish great-granny, who resisted having a toilet installed into the 1970s, because she thought them dirty things that belonged outdoors. And then there is my other Scottish great-granny, who handed me (aged 7, and appalled) a chamberpot because she didn't like people coming downstairs and flushing in the night, since it woke her. Born in 1899 and raised in a two-room toiletless tenement flat, "Babs" was oblivious to the horror of a kid raised in a four-bed, two-loo post-war council house.
There's an interesting modern parallel to my great-grannies' attitudes toward toilets, and that is the Indian families who choose smartphones over flushing loos. I explain to the kids that behind every Indian family who makes such a puzzling decision, is a granny who refuses to have such a revolting thing as a toilet in her home.
It's a great set of stories: they explain how culture changes over time and place, and why people have reasons for being different from the children in my audience. People who have never seen my shows or read my books sometimes find it hard to understand how I teach historical thinking without resorting to jargon or tedious textbook stuff, but this is a great illustration of what I do: I connect the past to kids' lives through carefully-chosen story and characters. Kids get it.
And let's face it, so do adults. Those of you who are fans of my Snipesville Chronicles series will recall that I don't shy away from bringing my middle-school time travelers face to face with the horrors of past toileting. From Hannah's disbelief on encountering austere, crunchy, shiny World War II toilet paper (it was a luxury compared to newspaper . . .) in Don't Know Where, Don't Know When to her very different response in the last book, One Way or Another. In 1905, as a seasoned time traveler and experienced Edwardian maid, she basically shrugs off having to empty other people's chamberpots. Her experiences also illustrate how profound cultural difference and acculturation can be. Not that I use words like "acculturation" in my novels.
Oh, and by the way: The BBC just posted a great story that shows the relevance of these toilet stories that I have been telling for a decade: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46534681
Learn more about my books, Could You Be A World War II Kid? and my other programs for schools, all presented by a middle grades author, published academic historian and former professor with 15 years experience working with kids and teens (that's me!) at AnnetteLaing.com
Wheel ruts from mid-19th century covered wagons are still visible across America, especially in the desert. What you're seeing here, as the trail stretches into the distance in Wyoming, is a tiny part of the journey migrants took. And they didn't normally travel in the wagons: They walked. This is also a tiny example of what kids will discover in Gone West, my new program for 4th and 5th graders.
Ever have a hard time imagining what a destination will look like before you get there? Ever been surprised by how much you enjoyed a long trip?
Of course. That's because, even with Google Street View and millions of photos at our fingertips, nothing really prepares us for a new environment. Now imagine that your only information came in the form of a map, a guidebook without illustrations, and some very scary news stories involving travelers' nasty deaths . . .
And when you decided to go anyway, your journey exceeded your wildest imaginings, and (sometimes) your greatest fears. You came face to face with the unimaginable.
That was the situation of the wagon train migrants in the mid-19th century. This summer, as part of the research for a school program about 19th century westward migration and its impact, my husband and I hopped in a rented car, and in less than two weeks, followed the wagon trails from the Missouri River to eastern Nevada, a journey that would have taken several months on foot (did I mention that covered wagon folk mostly walked?) We were stunned to think of what the journey must have been like nearly two centuries ago.
I'm working out how to share this insight with 4th and 5th graders whose own westward trip will be virtual. I'm also planning to present on Gone West, the new program, at a couple of forthcoming teachers' conferences.
While I'm set on a road trip theme, I'm not oblivious to the revolution in western history over the past three decades: I'm committed to getting audiences to empathize with Plains Indians as well as migrants,and to understand the impact that westward migration had on indigenous peoples and the environment. We're still living with the consequences of these journeys (environmental disaster, Westerners' fascinating and contradictory views of government, the struggles of Indian communities . ...)
In an age when immigration is in the news daily, I'm helping everyone to understand that, no matter what, people take enormous risks to move away from everyone and everything they have ever known. This week, NPR ran a fascinating segment that explains why even the cruel policy of separating children and parents is doing little or nothing to deter undocumented immigrants. It's astonishing to contemplate that 19th century wagon train migrants almost all had far less pressing incentive to take their gruelling and risky journeys.
These are lofty goals. For Gone West, I only have 75 minutes to show all this to kids. And I have only 40 minutes to present the program to teachers.
Needless to say, many of my optimistic plans have gone out the window. I had naively thought I could also work in the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's expedition, chat about mountain men, and generally put a bit more historical context around the journey itself. But the good news? Teachers tasked with checking off these bits of curriculum will find it means much more to kids who have enjoyed Gone West, and gained a better idea of what westward migration actually meant to people on the ground, and what it continues to mean to us today.
I'll be talking about Gone West at this year's South Carolina for the Social Studies meeting (postponed to a date TBA owing to Hurricane Florence) and the Georgia Council for the Social Studies meeting in October. I'm also presenting on my World War I program at the National Council for the Social Studies meeting in Chicago in late November. So if you're a teacher, please plan to come and bring colleagues! Meanwhile . . .
Check out These Teasers from Gone West:
(Left) February, 2018: West Pelzer Elementary (SC) Students Early in Their Reading of Don't Know Where, Don't Know When (Snipesville Chronicles, Book 1) (Right) May, 2018: Skype Visit with Author, Speaking from London.
I won't lie: I was worried.
The enterprising vice-principal of West Pelzer Elementary in rural South Carolina had hired me to speak to fifth graders, and ordered a class set of Don't Know Where, Don't Know When. But, of course, I had no idea whether she had classroom teachers on board, and that was essential.
When I turned up to present Could You Be A World War II Kid?, a program that serves simultaneously as historical background to the book and an introduction to it, I had a chance to speak to Jessica Johnson and her colleagues. They were concerned about it being perhaps too complex, especially in its vocabulary, for the kids' reading level.
And by this point, so was I. I have readers of all ages and backgrounds, including kids younger than these from underprivileged areas. But I also trust teachers to know their students' abilities.
Mrs. Johnson was willing to work with it. I offered to consult, and kept my fingers crossed.
The books are often used in schools as read-alouds. A rural middle school buys more than 100 copies every year to give to 6th graders. They're also on the summer reading list (and used in an economics classroom) for 7th graders in an elite private school. But an entire class of readers of varying ability in a Title I school in 5th grade? I hadn't seen that in person.
And then came the fantastic news: The kids loved the book. It was a hit.
I hoped Mrs. Johnson wasn't just being polite in telling me this, and offered to Skype with the kids from London, where I was researching future books. The reply was immediate and enthusiastic. Once I met with the kids, I knew this was the real deal.
But why was I surprised? This was, after all, my target audience when I began writing with several years experience of working with kids in the rural South under my belt, and, as I said, I have fans as young as nine, and even a few eight year olds. But I also have adult fans, among them several academic historians, and a professor of English Literature who holds degrees from Cambridge and Oxford. Suppose the younger kids were hugely exceptional?
I should have been more confident. I have never forgotten readers who struggle with reading, I have seldom compromised on my vocabulary, or knowingly talked down to my readers. What I have done, based on long experience teaching college freshmen, is made the meaning of complex words clear through context. And, of course, I have consciously kept the story moving. If kids want to know what happens next in a story, they will persist (as surely Beatrix Potter knew when she used "soporific" in Peter Rabbit), and they will, as a result, learn more vocabulary and become better readers. This isn't the philosophy of reading programs in schools, with their prescribed "reading levels". But most librarians consider those problematic at best, and increasingly, so do teachers.
That said, I owe much to Jessica Johnson. Mrs. Johnson is an impressive teacher, and I don't say that lightly. She recognizes the value of reading in opening up the world to kids in a struggling rural community, and she was willing to encourage the kids to stretch. That's key.
I asked Mrs. Johnson for a quote for my website. Here's what she wrote: "I accompanied my project based learning unit on WWII with Don't Know Where, Don't Know When for my 5th graders at West Pelzer Elementary in South Carolina. The book was a DELIGHTFUL addition to the unit and included a much needed child perspective of this major event in history. My class cannot wait to read the next book!"
Like many writers, and women, and women writers, I often doubt myself and my work. But once again, I've learned that optimism and confidence are a better approach. I should have known better.
Annette Laing, PhD, is an academic historian of early America and the Atlantic World. She was formerly a tenured professor at Georgia Southern University, where she was a member of the department of history and the Africana Studies program faculty. She is the author of The Snipesville Chronicles series of MG/YA time-travel novels.
Westerns are unfashionable, that much I do know. Hollywood isn't filming them, and the story of thousands of mostly white Americans storming west, usurping land from Indians and Mexicans in the process, is a fraught one in these divided times. But, despite all this, as you may note from an earlier blog entry, I have become fascinated by those who traveled west, and especially those women who went with the Gold Rush migration. More than that, westward migration is too big, too resonant, too American for me to believe that it's a story without 21st century appeal. What was it like to be an immigrant risking your life to cross a vast desert, and to knowingly trespass on others' lands? Were you truly a resilient individual, facing a perilous journey alone, or did your community, and even the federal government, have your back? What happened when your American dream met disappointment and death?
My husband and I have come to Kansas City to follow the wagon trains, almost 200 years too late. We begin at Independence, MO, from which traders left for New Mexico (and returned) on the Santa Fe trail, and migrants prepared for their wagon journey to Oregon or California, most never to head "back east" again.
Our wagon is a rented Toyota Corolla. Our tent is a series of comfortable hotels. Our food is whatever we can forage on the trail from a succession of cheap restaurants, although we have stocked up with supplies for the journey here in Missouri: trail mix, sparkling water, and chocolate.
We started with high expectations, but like the migrants--like America itself--we quickly began to "see the elephant". The phrase was used by the 19th century migrants to mean getting terribly excited about an experience (in the migrants' case, going west) only to suffer a reality check in the form of disappointment and disaster.
After excitedly anticipating museums and original sites leading us west, our elephant immediately appeared to us in the Kansas City area.
Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
At one time, there were many Eunice Shrivers, only without the money and clout that she possessed to get things done on a grand scale. Opinionated, forceful, unconcerned with appearance and other superficialities, and possessed of a moral voice and certitude, she steamrollered all who got in her way. I have never been particularly interested in the Kennedys, or Special Olympics, but I was intrigued by an NPR interview with the author. I'm glad I acted on it. This is an engaging biography, and given Eunice's reluctance to reveal her soul (typical of so many women of her generation) could not have been an easy project. Given how much she had to juggle, both context and subject material, McNamara does a deft job of keeping the reader engaged. Her book is a porthole into extraordinary privilege, and the good that can be done by those who, like Eunice Kennedy Shriver, do not take that privilege lightly. Her legacy is all around us, the recognition of the full humanity of those with intellectual disabilities.
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Some months ago, I brashly offered to write a blog piece for an Atlanta audience about fake news during World War I. I had referred very briefly to Great War propaganda in Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When, and had included a section on this topic in my new WWI program for schools. My interest had deepened with having learned recently that A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) was among the writers the British government had employed during World War I to concoct fake news, and feed it to American newspapers in an effort to draw American sympathies toward the Allies. I certainly included this fascinating bit of trivia in my program, followed by a rhetorical question for the kids and teachers: If propaganda was this sophisticated more than a century ago, what must it be like today?
And now we have an answer that took even the most cynical by surprise, in the form of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal.
Schools have been urged in recent years to shove aside other subjects in favor of STEM. There has already been a backlash against this educational trend, of course, from the passionate advocates of art, music, and theater, who saw their subjects sidelined in a rush to STEM. This prompted a hasty rewriting of the acronym, giving us STEAM (A for Arts, in the American sense).
I suggest that, in that case, we might as well add the humanities (English, history, and philosophy) which gives us SHTEAM or, to put it in more familiar language, education.
Wondering if SHTEAM is an initial too far? MIT requires its students to take humanities classes every semester. Unlike too many school administrators, MIT and other reputable tech schools understand that a single-minded focus on STEM is counter-productive and potentially disastrous: You cannot understand science without learning to think historically, since science changes over time, and the best book to understand that is historian Thomas Kuhn's classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Training future tech leaders without an education in ethics via history, English, and philosophy is a disturbing prospect in an age in which we move toward the ability to clone humans, and to replace their work with that of machines, while failing to provide for their continued ability to make a living, and a life.
To that end . . .
The War to End War, my newest program, available in various versions for 5th through 12th grades, is a riff on the meaning of World War One. It is not only as close to an actual college lecture as I deliver in schools, but rapidly becoming my most popular program.
Why? Because it's incredibly relevant, despite a century having passed. A historian is not an antiquarian: We're not just obsessed with all things old and past. We teach with one eye on the concerns of the present, and one of the concerns I address in this program is the unintended consequences of a mindless rush to adopt new technologies.
Oh, sure, I talk about how technological innovation made Britain the dominant power of the Victorian era. I also show students the cool gadgets of 1914, including a candlestick phone and a 3D stereoscope (an early Viewmaster, which to kids and teens is itself an antique).
But I also show that technology went wrong for the people of the early 20th century, and that the horrifying numbers of casualties of World War I is proof.
I'm not pandering to curriculum by discussing STEM in The War to End War. Rather, I am urging everyone to beware of the unthinking STEM bandwagon. An obsession with STEM encourages public school students to develop a narrow careerist focus: If the job for which you have trained vanishes, what then? I asked the high schoolers with whom I spoke this week. I asked what their interests were, and they looked at me in wonderment. "Do you mean what we plan to do for a career?" one young man asked. I assured him that if I had meant that, I would have said so. What I hoped to hear were what they cared about, their passions, some indication of their visions beyond their anticipated future jobs. Rest assured, students in America's elite prep schools are encouraged to have a broad view of life and education. There is no rush to replace books with Lego in their libraries. Our public school students deserve no less. And the arts and humanities are indispensable to that broad view.
As I show in The War to End War, the 20th century is one long cautionary tale. The Titanic (launched and sunk two years before World War I) and the machine guns and howitzers that made possible the deaths of 17 million (and wounding of millions more) in four short years should cause all of us to think twice before eagerly embracing an all-STEM, value-free future.
Does America need better science and tech education? Absolutely. Should that improvement be at the expense of improved education in the arts and humanities? Absolutely not. Not STEM. Not just STEAM. Think SHTEAM. Think Education.
Early in my grad school career, I mentioned to a fellow researcher that I had no idea why I was studying religion when I had set out to study immigration, except that this new subject was where the documents had led me. "It will be personal," she said. "It's always personal." I agreed that she must be right, but it took me a while to figure out why.
Of course we learn most avidly when we can connect what we learn about the past to our own lives today. But the connections aren't always obvious.
Charles Dickens knew poverty and child labor. He knew these things.
Raised in a middle-class home, Charles was educated, not merely schooled. In fact, his formal schooling was mediocre, like most of the limited formal education available in early 19th century England. He learned anyway, because of the learning that comes by osmosis from a family in a literate household. And above all, he learned because he read voraciously.
And then, before he had a chance to find his own voice, disaster.
Charles' father, a spendthrift clerk, is shut up in the Marshalsea, London's infamous debtors' prison. Young Charles has been sent out to work in a soul-destroying job, pasting labels and paper lids onto jars of shoe polish.
He pastes a paper lid. He sticks it on. It demands just enough attention to stop his mind from wandering. And too little to be stimulating. He takes another lid. He picks up the fishy-smelling pastebrush. Again. And again. And again. And again.
He is only 12 years old.
But Charles Dickens is old enough to understand the implications of this turn of events: His future is destroyed. His life of joyful learning has given way to ten hours a day in a crumbling, rat-infested warehouse, doing work that is precise enough to demand his full attention, and mind-numbing enough to stifle his imagination. There is no hope of escape. No place to go. Nothing to hope for.
And yet, as we know, escape he did.
Was Charles liberated from the boot-blacking factory because of his superior intelligence? No. Because of his superior education? No.
Because powerful Victorians saw the light, and freed children from exploitation and misery? No. Because he worked hard at his humble job? Emphatically, no. There is no reward for hard work, only punishment for falling behind, for any reason.
Charles is made free because his family is middle class: His father came into a large inheritance from Charles' great-grandmother. He is sprung from prison, and so is young Charles.
But the adult Charles Dickens knew that he was both fortunate and privileged. He knew that most people were not. His anger at selfishness, greed, and callousness shines through his novels: What more bitter a statement than Scrooge's vicious response to those who solicit a charitable donation from him: Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? When the Christmas spirits educate Scrooge by showing him historical context--past, present, future-- nobody is made more happy than the enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge himself. He's delirious. His excitement, interpreted so beautifully onscreen in 1951 by Alastair Sim in Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol), in a performance that has never been bettered. But then Sim knew something or childhood misery himself. For the rest of his life, he tried to rescue other lads from it, starting with George Cole.
Charles Dickens needed no such liberation of the soul. His concern and compassion for others came through in his lifetime, not only in his fiction, but also in his cogent criticisms of mid-Victorian society, including education. He attacked as the heartless attitudes of the day evinced in the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, which forced the poor to choose between destitution, and prison-like workhouses where their families were forced apart.
He also attacked soulless factory-like teaching methods. Dickens supported the efforts of working men to pursue a life of the mind, but he offered fewer prescriptions for good education than he did criticisms, perhaps sensing (as do those of us who follow in his footsteps today) that good teaching is really about caring and sharing one's own life of the literate mind, not obeying bureaucratic instructions.
In every way, Charles Dickens rose above his lower middle-class circumstances to embrace a generous vision of life, precisely because he had stared into the void of a miserable, meaningless existence at a vulnerable age. Perhaps because, even after the family's windfall came, his own mother, shockingly to us, pondered leaving him in the factory. A miserable youth and successful adulthood do not necessarily lead to empathy. But a good education should. Dickens believed in education because he did not want others to suffer as he had. Above all, as he knew, education ought to mean saving oneself and others from learning the hard way.
There is a reason his voice is still relevant today. Indeed, it is growing more relevant than at any time in the past century. Confronting Scrooge (and us) with ignorance and want in the guise of two wretched children, Dickens does not offer as a solution prisons and workhouses, joyless instruction and punishment by bureaucracy. He offers aid and education, not for the few, but for all. His message is both simple and complex, and it is urgent.
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Lady Bird, the new movie written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is getting fantastic reviews for its depiction of a teenage girl in her last year of high school, in the unpromising setting of Sacramento, CA. And so it should. But I am not an unbiased reviewer, and so this is not a review. This Brit, like the titular main character, came of age in Sacramento.
Sure, my story is different: I went to Sac High (mentioned in the film only as the place where Lady Bird's brother witnessed a stabbing, so triggering her parents' decision to send her to Catholic school). I arrived in Sacramento twenty years before the 2002 setting of the movie. And far from living with my family, I was five thousand miles from them, living with Californian host parents as an exchange student. While Lady Bird tests her incipient adulthood in her home city, most of my teenage wildness had already taken place in England. Now, I was in search of something else. But what? I wasn't sure.
I was starry-eyed but not stupid when I applied to go on exchange to America. "Where would you like to go?" asked the British interviewer. "Ohio," I said without hesitation. He gave me a curious look. "Why Ohio?"
I had thought it through: "Because that's the real America," I said. "The heartland."
"Is there anywhere you don't want to go?" he asked. Again, no hesitation. "California," I said. "They're so superficial."
The compromise, of course, is that I was sent to the city that the character of Lady Bird shrewdly describes as California's Midwest. And there, I found what I had what I had been looking for, without even knowing it: Sacramento.
Few of the people I met in the city, and especially teens, could understand my enthusiasm, flattered though they were because all their lives, they had believed Sacramento to be a "cow town", its chief attraction its position halfway between San Francisco (the real city) and the Sierra Nevada mountains. None of that mattered to me. For me, Sacramento was instant acceptance and understanding, as if this community had been waiting for me my entire life.
I had never felt quite that way about anywhere except my Scottish hometown, nor have I since. My family had left Dundee when I was four, for the "New Town" of Stevenage, the older part of which inspired "Balesworth" in my books. "New Stevenage", built as a sadly unsatisfying postwar working-class utopia had been a lonely place for me as a child: Not truly working class, not a Cockney descended from Londoners bombed from their homes, I was keenly aware that I didn't fit in, even among my playmates and nominal friends. This changed, happily, when I started my secondary school and met my wonderfully diverse group of best friends at the age of 11. Of Welsh, Indian, German, Scottish, and Norman English ancestry, my group was united by its middle class values, or, in my case, aspiration to them. The "Balesworth" parts of Don't Know Where, Don't Know When owe much to these friends and a couple of memorable adults, for they played Verity and Mrs. Devenish to my time-traveler Hannah and evacuee Eric.
But nothing compared with what I encountered now, at 16 years old. From the very first day in Sacramento, my life was absurdly happy. Wrapped in the huge blue skies and blazing heat of the Sacramento Valley, I lived a movie, cast not only with teenagers happy to include me in their lives, but with diverse, principled, and kind adult characters who liked me as they found me, and told me so. There are so many more than I can mention. My journalism teacher, an extroverted Japanese-American woman with an acerbic sense of humor, set about nurturing my interest in newspaper work, even quietly entering my weekly column into a state contest, in which it took first place. The kindly vice-principal tolerated the small Brit charging into his office every day to tell him of her latest idea or adventure. The retired neighbor, who took me to lunch with his World War II veteran buddies, and introduced me to his friend, an English war bride recently widowed after a long and happy marriage to a vet who had a lifelong obsession with Churchill. These people all expanded my historical awareness of America beyond my own generation.
They were a demonstrative lot, these Sacramentans, a revelation to someone who grew up in the emotionally austere Britain of the 70s. Theirs was a vastly different culture, but one in which I felt as though I fit perfectly. Thus the movie scenes of Lady Bird with wise and caring adults, even her friend's grandma whom she had just met, resonated fiercely with me.
I returned to England at the end of my year full of purpose and confidence. I would come back later to my beloved Sacramento for college, probably not the wisest decision intellectually, but a good one personally. I spent a few years enjoying 15 minutes of fame as a beg-a-thon host for the local PBS station, edited the campus newspaper, launched Doctor Who fever in Sacramento as one of the first members of the local fan club. I became a local celebrity, Sacramento's own Brit, even mentioned occasionally by a Sacramento Bee columnist. And then, still in my early twenties, I left Sacramento again, this time for good, in pursuit of dreams that my beloved city could not fulfill.
The Sacramento slide show through which the movie flits briefly but lovingly is full of places laden with meaning for me, a reminder of how much time has passed since that bucolic period in my life : Cookie's Drive-In, a burger joint in a shack near the levee bearing the railroad track at the top of H Street; The Tower Theatre (home of real butter on the popcorn, and once the home also of Tower Records, one of the city's few claims to international fame, and a favorite hangout, along with the less well-remembered Tower Books.)
But the movie's national success astonishes and delights me: The city is not remarkable to the uninitiated, and I have often said that Sacramento is a lovely place to live, you just wouldn't want to visit. I suppose it stands for every hometown that a young person has longed to leave behind, and hated to leave. But Greta Gerwig also writes a love letter to Sacramento that I would happily co-sign.
In the end, it was the people who made Sacramento the most magical place of my life. I saw Lady Bird the day after I returned from a visit "home" (where even the vice-principal and his wife, at 86, are still happy to see me), and the day before I had a delightful lunch in Atlanta with an old Sac State professor I hadn't spoken with in thirty years. The charm of the city that made me was and remains fresh in my mind, invisible to outsiders but warmly carried on in the lives of all who have known what it means to be from Sacramento. How thrilling to know that I am not alone in my love for the city, or in my nostalgia and regret.
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Academic & Public Historian, Middle-Grades Author (The Snipesville Chronicles), Practitioner of Non-Boring History, Mother. AnnetteLaing.com