Vera Baker was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 28, 1927. She and her family moved to New York City when she was quite young. Luckily for Vera, they lived near a studio space called Bronx House where she learned painting, writing, acting, and dance. When she was nine-years-old, one of her paintings, called "Yentas," was put on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. She was filmed there explaining to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt the meaning behind her work. The Movietone film reel ran before the regular features at the movies. This, Vera recalled, made her quite a big shot in the neighborhood!
Born: January 28, 1927, in Los Angeles, California
Parents: Albert Baker and Rebecca (Porringer) Baker, Jewish immigrants
Attended: the High School of Music and Arts in Manhattan; bachelor's degree in graphic arts from Black Mountain College in North Carolina
Married: Paul Williams (divorced in 1970)
Children: Sarah, Jennifer, and Merce
First book (illustrated): Hooray for Me! with text by Remy Charlip and Lilian Moore; First Book (written and illustrated): It's a Gingerbread House: Bake It, Build It, Eat It
Selected Awards: Caldecott Honors for "More More More" Said the Baby and A Chair for My Mother; Parents' Choice Award (illustration) for Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe; Jane Addams Honor for Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart; Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association for her body of work; NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature for her body of work
Arrested at a women's anti-war protest at the Pentagon in 1981 and served a month at a federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
Died: October 16, 2015
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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm. J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love," and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. (catalog summary)
- J.D. Vance's Biography
- J.D. Vance's Twitter: @JDVance1
- New Yorker Article: The Lives of Poor White People (9/2016)
Are you either waiting or finished with Hillbilly Elegy? Check out these similar titles to Vance's epic biography.
Allegheny Front: The Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction Selected by Lydia Millet, authored by Matthew Neill Null
The deceptively powerful stories in Null's first collection, after his debut novel Honey from the Lion, create a map not only of the geography of rural West Virginia but also of its people. These are characters inhabiting places largely ignored by the outside world. In "Mates," a man kills an endangered bald eagle on his land, believing himself to be above the law, and is then stalked and tormented by the eagle's mate. In "Gauley Season," a group of ex-miners turn to operating rafting companies after their mining jobs disappear, but the promising new industry quickly leads to tragedy. The rugged lives of a group of log drivers in the late 1800s are chronicled in "The Slow Lean of Time." In the astonishing "Telemetry," a young scientist's camp on Back Allegheny Mountain is visited by a local man and his daughter, their presence forcing the scientist to confront her relationship to her own origins, which becomes a recurring theme in the collection. Violence is inevitable in these stories-guns are almost always present, and they aren't just decoration-but there is plenty of beauty, too. Landscape is an essential element, as well as the constant presence of wild animals, but Null focuses on the ways that a setting can shape how we identify with the world. The scope of the collection contains voices from multiple generations, and the result is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a distinctive region of North America, as well as an exercise in finding the universal in the particular. (catalog summary)
“For me, the violin means everything . . . life.” —Ada Rios
In Ada Ríos’ hometown of Cateura, Paraguay, trash is a way of life. The landfill is a source of income for the gancheros, or recyclers, who spend the days picking through trash to find cardboard or plastic to sell. As a young girl, Ada wondered if she, too, would grow up to work in the landfill. Most people in her town did. Little did she know that trash would be a large part of her life in a completely unexpected way.
When Frank McCourt passed in 2009, he left behind memoirs filled with anguish, love, and dark merriment. Personal experiences are what this Irish-American author took and shaped into works of sorrowful beauty.
To open a book illustrated by Floyd Cooper is to be drawn into a world of warmth, bravery, and joy. His drawings are as essential as the text itself in illuminating the world of childhood, often of the Black experience.
He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1956. Early on, his family lived in the projects and had little money, but his mother was able to give him a sense of self-worth that he has carried with him always. She also shared stories with him, helping to build his imagination.
If I Ever Get Out of Here centers around Lewis Blake, a Native American teenager in a gifted junior high program. Lewis might be academically successful, but he has no friends. All his white classmates don't have much to say to Lewis, and all of the kids from the reservation are just in the regular classes.
It is 1976, and living outside of Buffalo, New York, Lewis wonders if the area's teachers are going to be surprised when they find that the Native American kids are not that excited about the country's Bicentennial celebration. His family has called this land "home" for much longer than a mere two hundred years.
Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.
New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.
John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.
Young Lee Bennett Hopkins was an unlikely candidate to go down in the Guinness Book of World Records for having edited the most poetry anthologies ever. He spent half his childhood in the projects of Scranton, New Jersey, and hated school. His father left the family when Lee was fourteen, leaving him to look after his younger brother and sister. His mother had her own problems, but she did love her children.
What made the difference for him was a special teacher who gave him hope. In eighth grade, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin encouraged him in his writing and urged him to go to as many plays as possible, some of which he managed to see by slipping into the theatres during intermission and catching this second act. This opened a new perspective for Lee, and he was soon on different path, away from the poverty and street life he had known.
I've got me a new boyfriend and his name is Rick Gavin. I don't actually know him, but he is the author of the darkly comic debut novel Ranchero, which made me cringe and laugh and scribble "I ♥ Rick" in pink glitter pen on all my notebook covers.
Nick Reid was a cop in Southwest Virginia. Something Happened (it's never explained in the book), and Nick ends up as a repo man down in the Mississippi Delta. One day, Nick and his partner Desmond set off on a routine repo to get payment or take back a flat screen TV from Percy Dwayne Dubois.
"But Percy Dwayne wouldn't give in. No, instead he went all white-trash philosophical and figured that since the world was against him, he might as well fight it. He hit Nick over the head with a fireplace shovel, stole the mint-condition calypso coral–colored 1969 Ranchero that Nick had borrowed from his landlady, and went on a rowdy ride across the Mississippi Delta." *
Nickel and Dimed is the story of veteran journalist Barbara Ehrenreich’s investigation into low-wage America. Before she left her normal life to pursue this project, she already knew something of the problems that these workers endure because of her research into other social issues. Ehrenreich had suggested to the editor of Harper’s Magazine that someone should do an investigative piece about this group, but she never thought at the time that she would be the person to dig deep into the lives of the working poor in America.