(Photo I took in the lobby of Hotel Emma in San Antonio)
“A poet’s late-night browsing of archived African American newspapers found 3 mentions of a baby Langston Hughes in 1901 – a year before his known birthdate. And that’s not all he found.” See article here: Langston Hughes
My digging through libraries for research lately has been really fun, amazing, eye-opening, and humbling. I have even been found crying over old pages. And once I helped a teenager out on a project for school in her research of civil rights. I was saddened at how little a late-teen had ever learned in school and how much she hadn’t known about. She had lived her whole life in Mississippi and never once knew about the riots on the beach. That was a fun three days I spent coming back and working with her. She had come into the excellent historical section this one library had that I was at for about a week looking so lost, not even knowing what questions she should really ask. I heard her asking the librarian…who was really good at her job and a real help, and then she sat at this big table next to me and looked overwhelmed. We began talking about her project and went from there. I learned since from an FB message that she got an A and that apparently an essay she and I wrote together when I had mentioned she should do one (because so something I was already doing myself) about her experience in this project is helping her get a scholarship to college. And hopefully a little eye-open to American history.
In the south I have gone through rows of books of census and see the racism they are filled with. I have gone through rows and rows of cemetery listings. And rows and rows of slaves listed names and who owned them. Some of those aren’t even all that old. Among much more. For my Deep South Five project, five novels of five generations of women, all first drafts will be finished through this summer, this is a huge part, and so is traveling the south and hearing it all first hand. I’ve even learned that New Orleans wasn’t the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, though I was in California when that happened, nobody ever talked about the devastation of the Mississippi coast. The remnants of what was can still be found in bricks of steps that lead to nowhere wherever you go.
When I am in my working month (or an entire two straight the last bit) I will be found with my head buried in a stack of books in a library in different towns and libraries all over the south right now. All summer. So, basically like my childhood.
Some libraries I seek out on purpose and with a purpose. There is one in Georgia just like that.
Even when Joe was home and during our three week vacation this last one and the one two week before that (where one entire week was really spent driving all through Texas, omg I was so happy when we finally found the border again, it goes on and on and on) I often hit a town where I won’t be staying during work-month (we call them on trip and off trip) and Joe is excellent at giving me time to spend hours pouring over books in a dark library while he is usually rummaging through Antique shops…not that I miss out on those. lol He is always game to go again. Or he will sit with his nook at times and chill but he isn’t what you’d (or he and I) call a “coffeeshop person”. Though he often does it with me…some out of tolerance for what I like to do. Sometimes because we truly need a mid-afternoon break in our day and have walked and done a lot in a town exploring, and a cool inside or a shady spot outside is most welcoming, or some time shutting our brains down for rest from over stimulation of sound and people and sight and we turn to sipping our coffees and reading our book/nook as both of us do have ptsd and too much can easily rattle our brains, we know how to rest them but also we like to do so much that requires the people and the sound and the crowds and the sights and the stimulation so balance is key, and some on winter days when I simply feel the need to as I do. And others when I am simply enjoying particular coffees I’ve sought or discovered along my journey. My cappuccino and espressos are always times to sit down and stop for a moment. And I always have my book…he always brings his nook (though somehow I end up carrying that in my bag or camera bag).
There is a movie with Melissa McCarthy about a writer who finds (and then forges, though) notes of authors found in books. And like this (minus the forgery) there is always life found within the books I open. the lost things. Like history. Stories. Tears. Happiness. And lives of so many people right there within the pages.