Alameda Bookshelf: "I've Got Some Lovin' To Do," Edited by Julia Park Tracey
Alameda Bookshelf: "I've Got Some Lovin' To Do," Edited by Julia Park Tracey
Photo by Kristen Hanlon.
Julia Park Tracey is a longtime fixture on Alameda’s literary arts scene. A founding editor of the Alameda Sun, she is the author of a novel (Tongues of Angels) and a collection of poems (Amaryllis), and her freelance writing has appeared in many venues. She also maintains a blog, Modern Muse, at http://www.modernmuse.blogspot.com/. Her most recent project is I've Got Some Lovin' to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926), the first in a series publishing the diaries of her great-aunt, Doris Bailey Murphy (1910-2011).
Murphy, the daughter of noted architect Luther R. Bailey, grew up in Portland, Ore. and attended Reed College. She later made her way to the Bay Area, where she became a social worker and married Joe Murphy, a labor activist and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or “Wobblies”). In the 1960s, the Murphys relocated to Occidental, where Doris worked for Sonoma County as a social worker and also maintained a private practice as a family therapist. Joe Murphy died in 1987, and Doris died shortly after her 101st birthday in March 2011.
Your great-aunt, Doris Bailey Murphy, lived a long and remarkable life. In her nineties she published a memoir, Love and Labor, chronicling her adult life. I’ve Got Some Lovin’ To Do is only the first in a series of books that you plan to publish excerpting her diaries. What do you think Doris would make of them being published now?
I don’t think she’d be surprised that they’re being published. She did leave them to me in her will. There aren’t many teen diaries from that era, and I think she would appreciate the historical significance of them being published. Plus, she really liked attention. She writes repeatedly, “I like to cause a sensation.” Every time I post something from the diary on Facebook or Twitter and someone writes, “I love Doris!” She would’ve loved that.
Many of the issues she writes about – crushes on boys, the way affections can turn on a dime, being bored – are the same for teens today as they were in the 1920s. One surprising thing is the amount of freedom Doris had, and the diaries offer a unique glimpse into upper-middle class life in the Roaring 20s.
She was a privileged daughter. She didn’t have to go milk cows, she didn’t have to do chores, she didn’t do a lot of dishes. The family had maids. So she had the luxury of being bored.
You left in a lot of her colorful expressions, like “son of a seacook!” and kept the words that had strikethroughs and corrections next to them (“Damn darn him!”). Was there anything you were tempted to leave out?
I had to think about how to set in context the racial slurs that she uses. And there’s only a couple; it’s not like she constantly says stuff. But they’re right up front: “He looked like a dago.” “He’s cute for a Jew.” I’m sure she heard these expressions all the time. It’s almost unfathomable to hear these things now. Her parents were from the South – just two or three generations earlier, they had been slaveholders. It doesn’t do any anyone any favors to pretend that wasn’t there. The Ku Klux Klan had a big resurgence in the 1920s, so those attitudes were definitely in the air. Naturally, I flinch from reading these expressions but thought it was important to leave them in.
One very dramatic moment in the diary comes when Doris finds out that Mickey Stevens, a boy she’s in love with and mentions dozens of times, has run away from home, ended up a stowaway on a lumber ship, and made it as far as China. She envisions him “getting cuffed and receiving harsh words from older men” among other indignities. He doesn’t reappear in this diary, except via Doris’s longing for him. Does he reappear in later diaries?
Absolutely! He does come back and there’s a huge denouement. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but they have a conversation where they debate whether love exists. She doesn’t come right out and tell him she loves him, and I don’t know why exactly, whether it was pride or her Anglo-Saxon Protestant upbringing – stiff upper lip, and all that. But she’d go and pour out all her emotions in her diary: “Oh, if I could only have told him!” It’ll be in the second volume, which I’m working on now.
You knew your great-aunt quite well. Did you learn anything new or startling by reading her diaries?
I didn’t know she wanted to be a writer and an artist when she was young. I found out that she produced a literary magazine and was active in literary and arts circles in Portland. Perhaps the most striking thing for me is the tonal difference between her diaries and her memoir, which was written in old age, from the far end of the telescope. It’s much less passionate. It feels almost clinical, because the things she quotes people saying is what she remembers from a long, long time ago. But the diary is in the moment, very fresh and immediate.
To promote the book, you are doing some traditional events, like readings in bookstores, but you are also utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and hosting “speakeasy” events.
Book publishing has changed a lot. The Internet has changed things in huge ways, but publishers are still reluctant to acknowledge how things are changing. They still see themselves as the arbiters of selection and taste, and they want you to jump through the hoops – getting an agent, sitting on your manuscript for months, choosing your cover art for you.
For this book I worked with Stellar Media Group, which also publishes the Alameda Sun, which I used to be affiliated with. They are really good at producing history books, and great at designing. So I worked with them on the design and some of the historical details, put together a beautiful package, and sent it to iUniverse, which is a self-publishing company.
Now, self-publishing has this tarnish from the traditional publishing industry, because it has this reputation of publishing “Grandma’s Cookbook,” really bad collections of poetry, church histories, things of that nature. But iUniverse has been bought by Penguin, which sees the future in self-publishing. It’s not what it used to be; with a vanity press you’d be stuck with 5,000 copies of a book in your garage that nobody wants. But iUniverse is print-on-demand, which is a greener way of producing a book, since they only print what is ordered.
Of course, the bookstores are prejudiced against books from iUniverse, because “Grandma’s Cookbook” is still 97 percent of what gets self-published. They only want them on consignment, if they’ll take them at all. However I’ve negotiated with iUniverse to have a full return policy so that bookstores are more willing to take them. I’m also taking a smaller royalty so that bookstores can get a higher percentage when they sell a copy. I think independent bookstores are really important. Still, I’m having a terrible time getting bookstores to carry it. It’s funny, because independent films and independent music are lauded, but independently published books are still seen as crap. But attitudes are slowly changing, and I hope to be the vanguard of that change and show how a carefully crafted, well-written book can make it. The work stands on its own.
As for the speakeasies, I’m doing those because I need to find alternative ways to reach an audience because I didn’t go through the traditional channels of publishing. Doris was going to speakeasies in her early twenties before Prohibition was repealed. In the diary I’m transcribing now, she talks about a place called Mario’s Kitchen that had two tables and served homemade wine. The speakeasy is glamorous as we look back on it, it was the Jazz Age, and of course the Prohibition spawned the Mafia, but we look back at it as a fun time. My daughter Mia and I concocted a drink in honor of Doris, which is kind of a twist on a Greyhound. It’s gin-based, it’s pink, and it’s called The Rebel Girl – Doris’s nickname for most of her adult life.
The Rebel Girl Cocktail
Recipe designed by Mia Romero
1 ½ oz. Hendrick’s gin
¼ oz. St. Germain elderflower liquer
1 ½ oz. sweetened pink grapefruit juice
½ oz. egg white
3 dashes Tabasco
A grind of fresh black pepper
Bitters for garnish
Pour ingredients into shaker over ice, and agitate. Pour into chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a few drops of bitters, swirled into a cursive capital D (for Doris), and another grind of black pepper for luck. Enjoy responsibly.
For more on the Doris Diaries and upcoming promotional events, visit: http://www.thedorisdiaries.com/index.html