A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: July 2018

On Laura Ingalls Wilder, “presentism,” the Victorians, and other random stabs to the heart

There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.*

I’m not in the habit of quoting protest songs from the 1960s. In fact, I’m less than enamored with the Sixties, as a rule, my birth during that volatile decade notwithstanding. However … and with deepest apologies to Buffalo Springfield … those are the words that keep springing to my mind recently.

Some sort of shift is taking place, deep inside my core. I feel unsettled and restless, drawn to something I can’t yet name. This sensation could be the result of too much caffeine, or of eating dinner too late at night, or of ingesting seafood that’s gone a bit “off.”

But I don’t think so.

A couple of recent events gave rise to this feeling (I’m making every effort to avoid using the tired, baggage-laden word “triggered.” It’s worn out its welcome.)

The first event was a gut-punch to my midsection when I of the Association of Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association)’s decision to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a prestigious children’s book award. According to the ALSC website, “Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.” So, some eighty years after her books were published and sixty years after her death, Laura Ingalls Wilder is to be booted out of the pantheon of American literature for not being up-to-date.

I’d barely had time to process my deep feels of regret over this disappointment when a second incident occurred. A lazy Saturday-morning browse of my local (if an hour away can be called local) Barnes & Noble produced a book that promised a cheeky look back at Victorian manners and morals. Expecting to be both enlightened and amused, I scanned a few pages and thrust it back on the shelf. It wasn’t a book most readers of this blog would enjoy. Instead of offering the reader an interesting trip in the Wayback Machine, it was a snarky, mocking, and thoroughly unfunny skewering of Victorian viewpoints concerning femininity, gender relations, and a host of other topics. What could have been a delightful, charming book, both amusing and informative, failed to do either as it vented its vindictive, mean-spirited spleen against the ideals of an earlier generation.

Now, clearly, I’ve rejected books before. Plenty of them. I’ve placed thousands of them back on the shelf or deleted them from my Amazon cart with regularity and not given them another thought. So why is this particular book still pricking at my mind days later? Because I think these seemingly insignificant events, both of them, are symptoms of a deeper problem.

Have you heard the term “presentism”? I hadn’t either, until quite recently. When I first heard it I was tempted to roll my eyes at yet another “ism” to supposedly confront and contend with. But this one actually clicks with me. According to dictionary.com, presentism is “uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.” In other words,  it means judging people of the past by the standards of today. It’s painting Laura Ingalls Wilder or Mark Twain or Agatha Christie or a host of other authors with the damning stripe of “racist” or “sexist” or “classist,” when their writings merely reflecting commonly held viewpoints and thought-patterns typical of their place and time in history. It means skewering authors of the past (among other people–name your historical hero and I bet there’s some lode of non-PC something-or-other in his or her life, waiting to be unearthed) for not being feminist enough or environmentally-friendly enough or fill-in-the-blank enough to suit their very specific 21st-century standards.

This is what makes me angry: the wholesale slandering of historical figures based on 21st-century standards. Makes me angry enough to … what? That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. Angry enough to write a blog post: done. But then what? Does Laura Ingalls Wilder need my help? Do the Victorians? I think not.

And yet.

The name of this blog (in case you didn’t know, which you probably didn’t because I’m neglectful at pointing it out)  is A Sparkling Vintage Life. Its mission is to celebrate the best of the past, to enjoy historical fiction and nonfiction, and to incorporate vintage touches into a modern life. To uphold wholesome, healthy, and God-honoring values. “The best of the past” does not mean approving of racism, sexism, and other “isms” so offensive to modern sensibilities. But neither does it mean throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It means taking what works and leaving the rest. Being a generous enough human to respect fellow humans who went before us for what they did well, and extending grace to (and learning from) those things we no longer accept or condone in this generation.

Laura Ingalls Wilder deserves to be admired as a writer whose stories have been beloved by generations. There are ways to point out what modern eyes see as her failings, without trashing her entire reputation.

The ways of the Victorians deserve to be respected, studied, and learned from, not mocked and ridiculed. Yes, they had their oddball quirks, to be sure, and it’s fine and good to point out where we disagree, to see how far we’ve come as a society in certain respects. But there are things we can learn from them, too. Things that are worth preserving,worth bringing back. It’s arrogant and prideful to think our society is so much “better” than theirs. And anyone who thinks our generation doesn’t have just as many oddball quirks, if not more, is simply delusional.

Oh, dear. I believe I’ve gone off on a  ramble. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these feelings churning about in my psyche. I just know that the past must not be painted over with politically correct Day-Glo. There are things worth saving, conserving, preserving, bringing back.

What can I do about it? Maybe nothing. Or maybe something. What it is ain’t exactly clear. Stay tuned.

And thank you for living out your own  juicy, generous, and joy-filled Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

*For What It Is Worth lyrics written by Stephen Stills, © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Returning to bliss: Confessions of a VICTORIA fangirl

Source: Hoffman Media

It will probably come as a surprise to exactly zero readers of this blog that I’m a huge fan of Victoria magazine, that venerable grande dame of gracious living. I keep back issues organized by season and flip through them whenever I need some inspiration or a little pick-me-up.

I was perusing the Victoria blog recently (The Ribbon in My Journal) and was thunderstruck to stumble across my own name, on a comment I posted in 2014. The question was something like “why do you like to read Victoria,” and I was tickled to realize I still agree with every word I wrote some four years ago. Here’s what I wrote:

“I always appreciate seeing examples of ways to incorporate vintage-style clothing, etc., into modern life without appearing too “costume-y.” Love reading about other kindred spirits who appreciate the best of the past and suspect that sometimes we’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to modernization–who don’t roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, but cholera! But no air-conditioning!” when I wax nostalgic about the past.”

But that wasn’t enough laud and honor, lol. I gushingly continued:

“I’ve been enjoying a book called Let’s Bring Back by Lesley M. M. Blume that talks about things we’ve lost and sometimes miss, such as hats on gentlemen and “powder rooms” and steamer trunks. Then when I pick up Victoria and see a way to use, say, a steamer trunk in my home, maybe not for its original purpose but in some other way, I feel like I can honor the past and keep bits of it always with me. I look forward to Victoria as a refreshing respite from the harshness of modern life, but I REALLY love it when I get an inspiration for grace notes to add to my life in a practical way. I don’t have to just shut the magazine with a sigh and a wistful “Wouldn’t it be nice…” but can actually incorporate elements of a more gracious time into my everyday life. Thank you!”

If you enjoy old-fashioned things and ways of living the way I do, give Victoria a try.

(FYI I’m not connected to the magazine or company in any way, financially or otherwise; just an avid fan.)

Some new “hammock-ready” books for summer

July 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

 


Contemporary Romance:

A Widow’s Hope by Vannetta Chapman — After tragedy claimed her husband’s life and her son’s ability to walk, Hannah King doesn’t want a new man. She has her family, a home and mounting debts. Scarred Amish bachelor Jacob Schrock offers Hannah the job she desperately needs. But while Hannah helps Jacob resolve his accounting issues, can she and her little boy also heal his wounded heart? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Firestorm by Laura V. Hilton — Bridget Behr can’t shake the guilt that it was her fault her family moved—and is too afraid to trust anyone, especially the flirtatious, overly-friendly Amish man who lives next door. Just as Bridget is finally settling into friendship, a new life, and maybe even love, a devastating forest fire ravages the county, destroying both land and the Behrs’ dreams. Now Bridget and her family must decide: will they leave behind the ashes and start anew in another Amish community? Or will they dare to fight for the future they’d hoped for in Mackinac County? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)


General Contemporary:

Ride to the Altar by Linda W. Yezak — Cattle are dying on the Circle Bar, putting the Texas ranch in financial jeopardy. Newly engaged Patricia Talbert and Talon Carlson must root out the cause before they can concentrate on wedding plans—which involves Patricia’s traveling to New York to patch things up with her domineering mother. While she is away, Talon discovers that the attacks on the ranch are connected to the murder of his first fiancée over eight years ago. Before they can move forward together, each have to resolve the past. Will they be able to start their new life with a clean slate? (General Contemporary from Canopy Books of Texas)


General Historical:

My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Dodging bullets takes a simple missing person case to a new level as Jonah Cahill, a Pinkerton agent, and Madeline Latour, an investigative reporter, form a tentative truce in Galveston, Texas, 1880. Are they on to a much bigger story when their best witness is suddenly kidnapped? (General Historical from Barbour Publishing)


Historical Mystery:

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright — Two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their own town before it’s too late and they lose their future–or their very souls. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])


Historical Romance:

This Freedom Journey by Misty M. Beller — Adrien Lockman left France to finally live life on his own terms, but when he discovers a half-starved and half-frozen woman in the treacherous Canadian mountains, the truth soon becomes clear—the only way they’ll survive is together. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Widow’s Plight by Mary Davis — After moving to a new town and joining a quilting circle, a single mother steps out of the shadows of abuse and into the sunshine. But will a secret clouding her past cost her the man she loves? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart — Orphaned during an early 19th century cholera epidemic and helped by a slave to find a new home, Adria Starr must now stand up for his freedom—and maybe find her own in the process. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano — A young heiress is suddenly the poorest wealthy woman in all of England when her father dies without telling anyone where he put his money. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])


Mystery:

Shifting Sands by Elizabeth Ludwig — A mysterious key hidden in the depths of an ancient lighthouse unlocks family secrets hidden for generations. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)

Guarded Prognosis by Richard L. Mabry — At first Dr. Caden Taggart feared for his freedom, then for his ability to cope, and eventually he feared for his life. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll — When Adelaide Fountaine, the general manager of a hotel in New Orleans, finds the body of a guest who was stabbed with a kitchen knife, her childhood friend Detective Beau Savoie is shocked to discover a connection between his friend–the woman he’s quietly loved for years—and the murdered guest. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . because he’s keeping secrets of his own. Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose? (Romantic Suspense from Gilead Publishing)

Camp Hope by Sara L. Foust — Facing dehydration, starvation, and a convoluted kidnapper, will Amy succeed in recovering her precious foster daughter or get lost in a vast wilderness forever? (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey — Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to join an elite team of terrorist hunters. Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, asking her help to stop America’s newest terrorist threat—an attack that would shake the country to its core. Together they must navigate secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark? (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])


Young Adult:

Launch by Jason C. Joyner — Teens with special abilities are invited to an exclusive conference where tech billionaire Simon Mazor is looking for those who can help him influence the world. (Young Adult from Little Lamb Books)

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