Thursday, 25 February 2016

"Daisy Turner's Kin" - a fine new book.

Sarasota County has a fine Library system which I use frequently.

I live more or less equidistantly from three of the libraries:  Selby  (The central downtown library); North (in Newtown); and Fruitville.

I rarely go to Selby.  Following a recent re-modeling I find that that the first/ground floor area is aesthetically barren and dreary.  (Public spaces are important -  and this particular one does not say "welcome".

I like to go to North.    It is a fine modern building, though sadly under-utilized, (maybe because it's in the African-American section of town where even so-called white "Liberals" fear to tread. In  truth North is on a pleasant Campus where people of all economic and  racial backgrounds gather to further their learning. Shame on my liberal friends who are scared to venture into Newtown. 

I often go to Fruitville mostly because it has a splendid "NEW BOOKS" section/

It was there that I saw and borrowed a book titled "Daisy Turner's Kin".

It is a finely researched and and nicely written history of a freed Slave (Alec Turner) who fought with the Union Army, and against all obstacles moved to Vermont.  There he gained the confidence, admiration and respect of the 99.9% white population (with a bit of racist kick-back now and then).

His story and history has been gleaned from the oral history which his daughter Daisy Turner. kept alive

"Daisy Turner's Kin" is published by the University of Illinois Press.

I urge you to buy, download, or borrow this splendid book. ( I have purchased two copies as gifts for my dear friends Grace, Derrick and Michelle. 


Here is the "blurb" from the University of Illinois Press.

Cover for Beck: Daisy Turner's Kin: An African American Family Saga. Click for larger image
Ebook Information10

Daisy Turner's Kin

An African American Family Saga
The oral history of an American family from Africa to the twentieth century

A daughter of freed African American slaves, Daisy Turner became a living repository of history. The family narrative entrusted to her--"a well-polished artifact, an heirloom that had been carefully preserved"--began among the Yoruba in West Africa and continued with her own long lifetime.

In 1983, folklorist Jane Beck began to interview Turner, then one hundred years old and still relating four generations of oral history. Beck uses Turner's storytelling to build the Turner family saga, using at its foundation the oft-repeated touchstone stories at the heart of their experiences: the abduction into slavery of Turner’s African ancestors; Daisy's father learning to read; his return as a soldier to his former plantation to kill the overseer; Daisy's childhood stand against racism; and her family's life in Vermont. Beck weaves in historical research and offers a folklorist's perspective on oral history and the hazards and uses of memory.


"Folklorist Beck's story of the Turner family's transition from freedom to slavery to freedom again is a marvel of scholarly storytelling. . . . An engrossing American tale."--Publisher's Weekly 

"Turner's recollections are interwoven with Beck's research to provide an astonishing saga of a single African American family, an example of the oral history tradition across two continents, and an amazing woman who bridges generations of her family."--Booklist 

"This book belongs in every academic and public library. Essential."--Choice 

"A deeply, patiently researched journey into the unusual English-African roots of a long-lived Grafton, Vermont, storyteller. . . . A well-excavated biography of a 'custodian of a multigenerational American family saga.'"--Kirkus Reviews

"I met and filmed Daisy Turner for my Civil War series and was struck by her vibrancy and the power of her voice. How fortunate we are that Jane Beck was able to both record and authenticate her family narrative. It allows us new insights into the experience of four generations of a family who maintained their identity and self-respect in spite of the dehumanizing circumstances they lived through. What an engaging and powerful story!"--Ken Burns, filmmaker 

"This amazing true story should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand American history. Jane Beck's seminal book, built upon decades of rare historical research combined with rich oral narratives, reads like a vivid novel. The central narrative portrays three generations of Turner men and women whose . . . creativity, resilience, and spiritual strength are at the root of their survival. Drawing upon letters, photos, local records, and oral recollection, the author has woven this compelling, necessary tale that in praise of Daisy Turner's determined truth-telling, encourages a reconsideration of traditional African American histories."--Ronne Hartfield, author of Another Way Home: The Tangled Roots of Race in One Chicago Family

"Beck has done an impeccable job of verifying the memories of Daisy Turner, clarifying what in her oral history is simply part of family lore and what is historically significant and accurate."--W. Ralph Eubanks, author of The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South

"A powerful vindication and thoughtful explication of the power and persistence of an oral tradition. Anchoring her work in long-term relationships and stellar research both in the library and in the field, Jane Beck shows how folk traditions, and the past, live on and shape our lives."--Debora Kodish, founder and former director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project.


Publication of this book is supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund.

Jane C. Beck is Executive Director Emeritus and Founder of the Vermont Folklife Center. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Vermont Research at the University of Vermont in 2011.

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