Monday, April 11, 2011

At the Risk of Being Immodest: A Bit of Good News, for a Change

My two postings earlier today contain quite a bit of kvetching.  Kvetching is a word I learned from Steve, who says his mother used it frequently when he was growing up.  We now learn, as we track the history of the word, that it's Yiddish, not the standard German his mother assumed she was hearing as she grew up in a German-speaking household in Minnesota.  

And that's interesting, in itself, since Steve discovered several years ago, on one of our trips to Germany to dig into his family history, that his mother's immigrant ancestors on her mother's side of the family both had Jewish grandmothers back in the village near Köln from which they emigrated.  Jewish grandmothers who became Catholic when they married Catholic men, and all remembrance of the Jewish roots was lost in Steve's ardently Catholic family--except for several linguistic carryovers (this is one among several Yiddish words--another is "schlock"--Steve's mother used as he grew up, claiming they were standard German words) that are strong giveaways of the forgotten Jewish blood.

And all of this is preface to a tidbit of information that has little to do with that discussion of kvetching or Yiddish carryovers in the German-American dialect of a Midwestern family.  Except, in a way, it does relate to the good news I'm about to share.

In the middle of lots of struggles (about which I've blogged, in part, today), we've just gotten word that an article I published last year has been given an award.  I've mentioned this article and my research on this blog, as I talked about a branch of my family I've discovered, in which a white Southern planter lived most of his adult life with a free woman of color, by whom he had children that he acknowledged as his--in contrast to the usual pattern in the antebellum South, where white men often fathered children by African-American women, but rarely recognized these children.

A day or so ago, I got a notice that my article about this family that crossed the color line in antebellum Mississippi and Arkansas has just been granted the Arkansas Historical Association's annual Walter L. Brown Award for Best Family History in a county or local journal.  And I'm pleased to have this happen at a time when it seems Steve and I are up for another round of reminders by some family members that we're just not very worthy contributors to much of anything.  Because of that "gay lifestyle" thing.

I'm also pleased because I think these stories of the complex interaction of white and black families over the course of Southern history deserve more attention than they have usually received in the past.  And because the history of a family that managed to survive and even thrive, despite the racism that forbade a white man legally to marry his spouse of color and made it difficult to acknowledge their children, deserves to be celebrated.

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