Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First We Have Coffee - by Margaret Jensen

Although I very much enjoy memoir as a genre, I usually try to avoid sappy ones, such as Jensen's. It is the story of a Norwegian immigrant family during the early and mid 20th century. James and I picked it up from our church's used book sale. We were drawn by the book's title, and the 50-cent price was right. James immediately set in to reading it as part of his coffee culture research, and within minutes read me this line from the book: "Mama was reminded of the advice her mother had given her earlier in the day: "Take him as he is and you will be happy. He loves God, the library - and you - in that order." So, I knew I would have to read this as well. And while there is no competition between how often coffee is mentioned (on almost every page!) to how many times libraries are (about 12) it is clear that libraries were important to Jensen's father ("Papa") - a Baptist minister. He often must be hustled out of the New York Public Library at closing, and his excitement at being offered a position in Chicago, after many years of serving in Saskatchewan, is induced partially by the thought of the big-city library. When her father is finally sent back to New York, he tells his now-grown daughter to visit so he can show her the sights. He begins by saying "Tomorrow I'll take you to the library..." Carnegie Hall, the Statue of Liberty Radio City and Coney Island can wait until after this most important stop. Of her father's death Jensen and her siblings "couldn't grieve...in [their] imaginations [they] saw him in the libraries in heaven, talking with his beloved authors."

James' "coffee take" on this work can be found on his "Environmental Geography" blog.

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