Family biographies can add new information and texture to the historical record, animating what we thought we knew about the past. The following editors’ picks from Indieland unearth fresh facts about interesting eras: We learn about the tattooing history of Boston via the Liberty family; agricultural life from a fourth-generation Wisconsin farmer; and immigration and Prohibition from the descendent of a bootlegging grandma.
Margaret Hodges and Derin Bray’s Loud, Naked, In Three Colors immediately grabs the reader’s attention with its title and opening sentences: “ ‘Sight-Seers Are Not Welcome!,’ ‘Electric Engraving While You Wait,’ ‘No Drinking—Keep Your Bottle In Your Pocket—Per Order Police Dept.’ These Liberty family shop signs from the Lyle Tuttle Tattoo Art Collection transport us to the flavorful history woven into early American tattooing.” Gems (and mermaids and dragons and devils) abound in this carnivalesque coffee-table book.
Nadine A. Block recounts her Wisconsin family’s experiences on their dairy farm in Remembering Rosie: Memories of a Wisconsin Farm Girl. She notes their world was so insular that “everything revolved around school, church, and community. There was little contact with the outside world.” While that community was close-knit, everyone maintained their sense of freedom. “Farmers are the last cowboys,” Block writes. “They wouldn’t organize even if it was important to their livelihood to do so. Farmers enjoy their independence too much.” Our reviewer says the author “exposes important social issues.…A tenderhearted and socially conscious memoir of dairy farming.”
In Prohibition Wine, tales of immigration and Prohibition overlap. Marian Leah Knapp recounts the experiences of her Russian Jewish family, which benefited from the entrepreneurship of her widowed grandmother’s foray into the 1920s liquor market. Our reviewer calls the book “an often engaging and atypical historical biography.”
Karen Schechner is the vice president of Kirkus Indie.