The books that explore the Finger Lakes continue to present the region from new and varied vantage points. Here, we review books about local history, wineries and artisans, and a children’s title with the theme of acceptance. Fiction writers are increasingly choosing the region as a setting for their mysteries and romances. Watch for the winter issue of Life in the Finger Lakes for more reviews of stories, biographies and histories.
Editors: Barbara Lovenheim, Suzanne Ramljak and Paul J. Smith.
Hudson Hills Press with the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG)
$45 at MAG Gallery StoreThis survey of the history of the craft art movement in western New York begins with a short overview of the Roycrofters of East Aurora, Gustav Stickley furniture workshops in the Syracuse area, the Corning Glass Works and Museum, and the School of Ceramics in Alfred. The title explores Rochester’s craft roots with the School for American Craftsmen (now the School for American Crafts) located at the Rochester Institute of Technology.To connect such pivotal initiatives with active artisans today, the editors interviewed four important artists who work in different media, Wendell Castle (wood), Albert Paley (metal), Michael Taylor (glass) and Wayne Higby (clay). By reading about their lives and their thoughts on the creative process, and looking at examples of the art they create, readers will gain fresh insight into their influence on younger generations.This beautifully illustrated book also presents 25 artists working within the same categories as Castle and others to demonstrate that professional artists continue to “break ground” and vitalize the arts.
The Natural Science Camp at Tichenor Point
Ontario County Historical Society, 585-394-4975
More than 100 years ago, young campers embarked by steamboat to reach the Natural Science Camp on the west side of Canandaigua Lake. Its emphasis on geology, botany, entomology, zoology and conchology made it one of the first science camps in the U.S. The camp operated from 1890 to 1905, then moved to a property on Keuka Lake. Today the tents at Tichenor Point have been replaced by year-round homes.
Ray Henry, Canandaigua town historian, presents a unique look at lake history, drawing on camp catalogs, photographs and printed sources. Affiliated with the Rochester Free Academy and Mechanics Institute (now Rochester Institute of Technology), the camp’s organizer Professor Albert Arey was dedicated to the advancement of science and the education of young adults. Articles in Rochester city newspapers and elsewhere attracted campers from a wide area.
The camp’s chronicle begins in 1890 when attendance was restricted to boys. Girls were admitted the following year and the camp was possibly the first coed camp in the U.S. Of particular interest are the rare historic photos documenting campers’ various activities and their more formal attire. There were talent shows and baseball teams, but one of the most popular classes was taxidermy.
Summer in a Glass
Author Evan Dawson is a Rochester television news journalist and the managing editor of the New York Wine Cork Report website. His book on winemaking in the region delves into the lives of those who have helped bring Finger Lakes wines to the forefront. Each of the book’s 13 stories begins with a fascinating backstory of how key individuals came to the industry. The book recounts, in a relaxed and congenial manner, the challenges of this growing business, ranging from the extremes of weather to legal issues facing immigrant winemakers. There are plenty of tantalizing details about the process of achieving fine wines to delight your average oenophile.
The reader is invited along to behind-the-scenes meetings, tours and tastings. Dawson himself spent time harvesting grapes to learn some of the basic tasks involved in bringing a bottle of wine to the table. The narrative is candid, at times amusing, and offers insight into what these men and women did to achieve excellence and gain respect for the Finger Lakes wine industry. “Something special is happening around these lakes,” writes Dawson.
For Richer, For Danger
Assorted enigmatic suspects and a murder plot set against a Finger Lakes backdrop provide readers with a most entertaining tale. In the second of the Broken Vows mystery series, the young couple Jolene and Ray Parker attempt to adopt Noelle, a baby abandoned by her birth parents who are in trouble with the law. The situation is compounded by the revelation that the baby’s mother assumed a false identity – of a dead girl. Then, the infant’s father is murdered at the racetrack near Canandaigua, and the mother is jailed for the crime.
Jolene and Ray are caught up in this intrigue while trying to finalize the adoption. Jolene, the owner of a struggling sports car business and her law-officer husband become sleuths and attempt to unravel the truth of the child’s identity. Along the way, they become targets of a crazed murderer. The story is enlivened by the cast of characters, Jolene’s bipolar sister Erica; Cory, Jolene’s car mechanic who is involved in a doomed relationship; and Catherine, a former love interest of Ray’s.
Wah-say-lan, A Tale of the Iroquois in the American Revolution
James H. Smith
Longtime journalist and new novelist James H. Smith brings readers a compelling novel about a Seneca woman, her love for a Connecticut slave, and the historic figures they encounter during the American Revolution. The story follows the youthful Wah-say-Lan, a beautiful Native American, and the black Freeman Trentham or Jamwesaw, as he was known in his native Africa. The tale is told from the Seneca point of view. The reader is swept along by the fearless nature of Wah-say-Lan who often reflects on how her people’s beliefs are threatened by the white settlers. When she encounters danger, she does not hesitate to kill an adversary. At times, she uses her magnetic beauty and strong nature to gain advantage with men such as the French soldier and statesman, the Marquis de Lafayette. Because of Jamwesaw’s yearning to find his mother, who he believes is a slave at Monticello, the pair travels from Canandaigua Lake to Virginia. The events of the war disrupt their journey and ultimately separate them.
Captain Carl’s Vacation: Believing is Seeing
Donna Mirsk Bennett
Three Chiquitas Publishing
The third title in Donna Bennett’s children’s book series called Petey and the Mean Pirates focuses on the importance of accepting people’s differences. The story draws on the real life experience of Bennett’s young daughter Rachel, who wears an eye patch to strengthen the vision in her other eye.
Captain Carl is on a winter vacation to the Canandaigua area, taking a break from his ice cream business in the Caribbean. The pirate is out of his depth, so to speak, but learns to appreciate a snowy climate, time spent in solitude and downhill skiing. His encounter with the youthful “Princess Patch” on the ski slopes opens his world to accepting people with differences. There is even a clever comparison between New York City, where Captain Carl mistakenly thinks he is heading, and the less populated and scenic setting of upstate New York, where the story takes place.
Readers from preschool to fifth grade will also be introduced to an easy-to-understand explanation of this vision problem, and a cautionary note to parents about the importance of its early detection. The charming illustrations by J.C. Mull are a perfect fit for the story.
A Jail Among Us
Larry Ann Evans with Lt. Steve Sklenar
Wayne County Historical Society
The Museum of Wayne County History is located in a 19th-century house on Butternut Street in Lyons, in a residential neighborhood. This is hardly an unusual form of adaptive reuse, but it is unique in that the building was the county jail from 1856 to 1960. It accommodated a sheriff and his family, along with the county prisoners. Today visitors to the museum can view the surviving jail cells along with examples of prisoner artwork on the cellblock walls.
Updating an earlier publication, Larry Ann Evans, the executive director of the historical society, offers new information on the sheriffs who worked at the jail and more details on incarcerated criminals. Among the most notorious was Oliver Curtis Perry who held up the American Express Special of the New York Central on its run from New York City to Rochester in 1892.
The book’s black and white illustrations illuminate prison life and conditions. To lighten this serious subject matter there is a bit of jail humor attributed to a sheriff from the 1930s who enumerated the “Rules” of the “Hotel de Jail.”
by Laurel C. Wemett