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To read David Romtvedt’s book about Zelestina Urza, a 1902 Basque immigrant to Wyoming, is to be taken happily by surprise. I quickly found this was not a ‘typical’ historical fiction but a contemplative dance from frontier Wyoming to present day through Zelestina: her Cheyenne friend Yellow Bird; the Basque, Cheyenne, and American faiths and cultures; Romtvedt’s own religious ponderings; the 2,000-plus year history of the Basque; the Indian Wars; the World Wars; and why you shouldn’t get a new paint job on a Cadillac if you plan to turn it into a space ship. I appreciated the poet in Romtvedt coming through in his thoughts on Basque songs; Wyoming; the Wizard of Oz; Basque whaling; Saint Thomas; ghosts, spirits, and memories; and the good and mostly bad and ugly in any war. Weaving and joining these many topics is the strength of Zelestina, her friendship with the author, and her life journey. Now it is time for me to Google Gernika. Read Zelestina — you’ll understand.
Nancy Venable, Extension and Volunteer Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library
As I sit in my comfortable home, reading Jennifer Lawrence’s Soap Suds Row, I hear the buzzer on my automatic washing machine signaling the end of a wash cycle. I don’t have to chop wood, carry water, or make my own soap to have clean clothes. This glimpse into the lives of women who blazed a trail across the frontier, traveling with Army soldiers and offering comfort, morale, and clean uniforms in less than sanitary or hospitable situations. Of course there has been a stigma incorrectly attached to “laundresses” because of a few bad examples, but the majority of the women profiled in this book were hard-working business women making a living to support their families. Some went above and beyond their job title, acting as nurse, teacher, friend, and spy in addition to wash day chores. Entertaining and informative, this volume offers a counterpoint to the salacious stories that have persisted about women spending time around soldiers. Each chapter ends with a bibliography and notes to support the perspective.
Nancy A. Shore, MLIS candidate
University of South Carolina distance education program