Several years ago, during my early Boomer Blog days, I also had one of the seminal reading experiences of my life – I absolutely devoured Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
I was almost as impressed when I read in the book’s acknowledgements that the author had spent 10 years researching and writing this book that so inspired me. By comparison, the weekly 900 words I write for my dinky column seem indeed paltry. In fact, I remain hesitant to call myself a writer, let alone an author. In the last couple of years, however, I have read a handful of engaging books by real authors I also happen to know. Here are my reactions to these books penned by relatives, friends, former students and colleagues.
THE COURAGE TO BE YOU by Jessie K. Uthoff – (County, St. Paris Libraries)
I had non-traditional interaction with Jessie as she completed my online course about the Holocaust, although I have known her family for years. This slim volume, also beautifully illustrated by the author herself, offers “empowering notes for girls and women.” Jessie urges us to know our worth, strength, beauty, intellect and to make our own decisions about using them. She suggests boldness and patience, to consider mistakes as life lessons. The heart should hold peace and compassion, appreciation and joy. Millennial Jessie certainly made this old Boomer sit up and take notice of a more courageous view of life.
I’M UP by Beverly Beeghly Avers and Contributors – (available from Amazon)
I first knew Bev as the mother of three delightful daughters in my German classes. Early on she taught, later pastoring at churches including the Rosewood United Methodist Church. Now retired, she has created these daily “soul devotions for seniors,” each featuring a relatable message, Bible verse, prayer, and (my favorite) – the words to a well-known hymn. I love that she uses “I’m up” in the physical sense as well as the spiritual one – just right for the Boomer crowd!
MECHANICSBURG IN THE 1930s by Glenn Lewis – (County, Mechanicsburg, St. Paris Libraries)
Recently-deceased Graham educator Glenn Lewis actually hailed from Mechanicsburg. Meticulous research of the village during its Great Depression years resulted in a reference book that reads like a novel. Long-ago traditions – Chautauqua, Farmer’s Institute – found places on Glenn’s timeline. School challenges – indoor restrooms, a school year ending early when funds ran out – represented further problems. Rural electrification, modernization of water and sewage systems, the centennial renovation of Town Hall pointed toward future hope. Glenn’s book offers a fascinating look at local history – that was being repeated all across America between the wars. Great read!
THE BEAT GOES ON FOR THE BEST CLASS EVER! by Janet Ebert – (County Library)
Although this music educator and community activist has authored several books, I chose the history of Janet Ebert’s 1953 high school graduating class. Whenever we chatted, she extolled the virtues of her Bexley classmates. This class historian collected and solicited every possible scrap of information, now organized into a memory book complete with lists of colleges attended, degrees received, professions and participation, and detailed mini-biographies of each class member. I could not stop browsing through this window on the early 1950s – and the loving tribute created by the class historian!
SURRENDER THE OUTCOME by Brook Cupps – (County Library)
What does a busy coach do during a pandemic quarantine? He writes a book, of course! Brook Cupps carefully outlines his coaching philosophy – the importance of athletes interacting with each other according to agreed-upon values rather than focusing on wins and losses. The author cleverly details the odyssey of a coach named Mick who navigates family life, team sessions, and cohorts with probing questions all based on Brook’s combined experiences at Graham, Centerville, and beyond. I did often feel I was experiencing the book version of a movie I had already seen! So very readable!
OHIO VALLEY DWARF CAR ASSOCIATION HISTORY & RECORD BOOK by Shawn Sell – (Privately Printed)
My nephew, with a sports management degree and a passion for statistics, regularly participates in sports information jobs, including his recent scorekeeper stint at the NCAA tournament in March. Thus, I was not surprised when almost 10 years ago Shawn undertook this self-directed project of the sport to which he, his dad, and younger brother dedicated their Shady Bowl weekends. He masterfully presented statistics and photos galore and used his writing talents to provide historical perspective and supplementary information. Working independently, he created two editions of this compendium.
I so admire these six authors for the courage required to commit to their book plans and the perseverance demonstrated in bringing their projects to completion. There were decisions to make, not the least of which involved format and organization. Editing brought other decisions often resulting in the elimination of the un-eliminatible. Perhaps most difficult was their willingness to lay bare their most important ideas and opinions, opening themselves to judgment in our increasingly-judgmental society. But they became authors because they wrote about what they know, about which they are passionate. Their efforts are to be applauded!
And perhaps someday I will gather my own courage and develop sufficient stick-to-itiveness to make all the necessary decisions. If I can actually accomplish my vision of a Foxfire-type book with overtones of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garrison Keillor, I might even call myself an author. Here’s hoping!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.