Good Luck and Bad Luck

March is a month when we remember fate and destiny. Or the lack of fate and destiny. Sometimes, things just happen.

March 15 is famous for being the Ides of March, or the middle of the month. It’s the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated by members of his senate. It’s memorable to the English-speaking world because of William Shakespeare’s play. So it’s because of a writer that we remember this particular assassination and feel the chill in our own bones as we look at the calendar.

Likewise, March is the month of St. Patrick’s Day. But before you go slinging about the phrase “the luck of the Irish” like it’s something to celebrate, realize the phrase is ironic. The Irish were considered an unlucky group of people because of the poverty they faced in the old country and the prejudice they faced in the new.

Luck also reminds us at Ohioana about two sons of our state: Eddie Rickenbacker (good luck) and George Armstrong Custer (the other kind).

In our collection, we have Rickenbacker’s own memoirs of his service during the Great War, Fighting the Flying Circus, which was published in 1919 by the Frederick A. Stokes Company. The book includes a handsome portrait of Colonel Rickenbacker in the front as well as a glossary of terms unfamiliar to the reading public at the time, including “joystick” and “zoom.” A biography in our collection is titled Rickenbacker’s Luck, and was written by Finis Farr and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1979. Rickenbacker was never injured in combat, and not seriously in a childhood attempt to fly a bicycle off of the roof of the family garage. So that’s good luck right there.

Neither luck nor heroism are associated with Custer. He’s regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a vainglorious fool with emphasis on the “vain” part. The 1970 film, Little Big Man probably has a lot to do with that perception. The general was portrayed as a complete creep (at best) by actor Richard Mulligan. The truth, as always, is somewhere else, a concept investigated by Nathaniel Philbrick in The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Bighorn. In the end, the only place left for Custer to find another way forward is in the land of alternate history, like the novel Custer’s Luck by Robert Skimin and William E. Moody, published by Herodias in 2000. Yes, the victor of Little Bighorn was elected president in 1880.

Strange days indeed. Be careful out there today, March 15, OK?

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Nothing worthwhile happens overnight and change takes time — and work. Lots and lots of work.

In politics, Ohio can make a proud claim: Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) was the first woman to run for president of the United States. There’s some discussion about the legitimacy of her bid for office: Woodhull was under the age of 35 and of course women couldn’t vote so how could her bid for office be legitimate? Ooof. And some aspects of her personal life could be termed disorderly …  but when has that stopped members of the opposite sex from running for office?

Anyway.

Ohioana is sending love today to all of the women who write. Thank you today to Connie Schultz who writes about politics and who moderates a lively Facebook community. Thank you to Gloria Steinem, native of Toledo. Thank you Toni Morrison, for your amazing work. Toni Morrison won the Ohioana Book Award for Sula, and her mother, Mrs. George Wofford, accepted the award on Ms. Morrison’s behalf at the luncheon in 1975. Ms. Morrison also sent Ohioana a note in 1999, thanking us for honoring her:

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Ohio to be a gift to any writer’s imagination is high praise indeed. May we continue to serve as an inspiration.

 

Black History Month is something to celebrate!

Black History Month was much shorter when it began in 1926: it was only a week long. The celebration was the brain child of historian and educator Carter G. Woodson, who spent quite a bit of his youth in Huntington, West Virginia – one of Ohio’s neighbors to the south. February was chosen since it’s also the month of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

A new documentary was just released last week reminded us of one our books in the collection. The documentary is I Am Not Your Negro, which brings to life the words of James Baldwin. The book is Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White. Written by Kathy Y. Wilson, the title is based on Wilson’s exasperation with a white newsroom colleague. Sick and tired of questions about hip-hop groups, Wilson advised the colleague to get a black friend and said “I’m NOT your Negro tour guide.” And a column was born. Ms. Wilson’s collection of essay, published by Emmis Books in Cincinnati in 2004. The review in Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Wilson writes in a voice that can fairly simmer with disgust, indignation and a powerful blast of irony.”

We also want to share some images from events and the collection.

Way back when, one of the librarians at Ohioana wrote to Mr. Langston Hughes. He wrote back, alerting her to the existence of some writers that he thought she ought to know about.

We also want to share a picture of Rita Dove, who was honored by Ohioana in 2010 — The honor was all OURS, however. And to celebrate Ms. Dove a bit more, here’s a link to a recent interview that the Poetry Foundation recently published. Good stuff here. Good to read and take to heart.

We love our old books at Ohioana, not only for what’s between the covers but for the covers themselves. We love this book for the paisley print, like fabric, and for the photo of the sweet and handsome man. While Dunbar’s use of dialect in written speech has long fallen from use, we can still appreciate his intent to write with love and compassion as well as his commercial and  popular success.  As Nikki Giovanni said of Dunbar, “He wanted to be a writer, and he wrote.”