Who’s you mama? Who’s your daddy?

by Jen Baker and John LaMont

Conwy Castle in Wales, image courtesy of The Ancient Brit, via Flickr.Most of us at one time or another wonder about our ancestors: where they came from, how they got here and why they came. My family came from Germany, Wales and England and I’ve traveled to all three. Curiously, I made an emotional discovery in Wales – I felt I belonged there: I delighted in repeating town names like Llangollen and Aberystwyth and when I stayed over in Conwy, it felt like home. Why is that? Twenty years later (okay thirty) I researched the history of northern Wales and checked my family tree for the Miles brothers who came to America in 1799 from Wales. I found that the James and John Miles of Radnorshire, listed on my genealogy, were actually inhabitants of what is now Clwyd County where Conwy is! Do we have some sort of ancestral memory that goes beyond DNA?

Many fiction authors write about these déjà vu or dream connections with our ancestors – the covers of these books in the 1970s showed manor houses in the rain, sometimes with scared girls in nighties running about on the lawn. Readers who love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, beginning with Outlander in which Claire Randall travels back in time to confront her husband’s ancestor, will understand this fascination with ancestry. Novels allude to this tendency of the dead to stick around as in Francis Cottam’s The House of Lost Souls: sometimes a house ghost alerts the protagonist to a horrible crime from the past, or an object carries a message from the past to the right person, as in Louise Erdrich’s The Painted Drum. Or, even creepier, a familial ghost inveigles its way into a character’s life as a controlling influence, as in Sarah Waters’ book, The Little Stranger. Continue reading “Who’s you mama? Who’s your daddy?”

Washington nonfiction: Hauntings, history, dirty money and cheeseburgers

It’s all about Washington in these choice nonfiction titles:

Washington’s Haunted Hotspots by Linda Moffitt (133.10979 M724W 2009)
Spirit sightings at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, the Bush Hotel in Index and the Pickering Barn in Issaquah? Find the stories behind these and other local spooky encounters right here.

Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock, from “Louie Louie” to “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Peter Blecha (781.66097 B6148S 2009)
An explosion of diverse musical styles and industry icons brings the Northwest unexpected international recognition and a place in music history.

Hiking Washington’s History by Judy Bentley (917.97 B4463H 2010 )
A history buff’s guide to 40 historical trails and the stories embedded in their landscapes.

Seattle Vice: Strippers, Prostitution, Dirty Money, and Narcotics in the Emerald City by Rick Anderson (364.10979 An243S 2010)
Take a walk on the wild side with this survey of our sordid, seedy history from the Old West to the World Wide Web, revealing the flipside to Seattle nice.

Cheese Deluxe: A Memoir by Greg Palmer (B P1824P 2008)
The beloved Seattle commentator recounts the last days of his youth, flipping burgers at Mercer Island’s Samoa drive-in, circa 1965.

See more suggested titles in this Seattle Picks: Washington State Nonfiction list created by our librarians.