The Gene Pool: The Literature Edition

Every now and then I like to sum up a few genealogy-related items I’ve come across in pop culture. I call it The Gene Pool because I’m clever.

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Item #1: The Dead by Billy Collins
via book and the Internet

(I came across this poem recently, and wanted to keep it around to read. It nicely sums up my connection to my ancestors while I’m researching them.)

The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

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Item #2: City of Thieves by David Benioff
via book

In the introCity of Thieves book coverduction of the book, the author (who currently heads the writing team of the Game of Thrones series) explains that he kept asking his immigrant grandfather to tell him what life in Russia was like during the Nazi occupation. His grandfather repeatedly refused to talk about it, but gave him a blessing of using his authorly skills to make a story up. Benioff researched the siege of St. Petersburg and then built a narrative around the historical facts. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that this technique is exactly what I’m attempting to do with my ancestors’ histories.  The result is an incredibly moving tale of two ‘criminals’ and their odd journey through the battle zones of World War II.

This book will stay in my library as an excellent example of blurring the lines between history and fiction. I think you’ll enjoy it too, although, I will warn you that it does not pull any punches when describing the human condition during wartime. I sobbed through several chapters in this book. I am not much for sobbing generally.

For more on my impressions of this book, read my review on Goodreads. Warning: SPOILERS!

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Item #3: Who Do You Think You Are?
via television

Not quite literature, I know, but the fourth season premieres on TLC this Wednesday night with Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame. Who Do You Think You Are? is a show that researches a celebrity’s ancestors and then recounts an interesting tale from their findings. The first few episodes on NBC were admittedly dry, but the Mormons over at Ancestry.com who produce it have found a way to jazz it up a bit. The episode on Christina Applegate’s father has stuck with me for 2 years.

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Like what I did here? Read other Gene Pool installments: Paul Fronczak & San Miguel and Coincidences!

Do you know about any history, sociology, or genealogy stories  I can use for upcoming Gene Pools? Tell me about it.

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3 Replies to “The Gene Pool: The Literature Edition”

  1. Thanks, Maria, I will take a look at Rick Bragg and let you know. And I highly recommend City of Thieves. The story balances the seriousness and the ridiculousness of war like a tight rope walker.

    Of course you can use my photo for Covey View.

  2. Nice poem and animation Nate. ‘City of Thieves’ sounds interesting, too. I listened to a talking book written by Rick Bragg called ‘Ava’s Man’ a while back. It is the story of the author’s grandfather and it is one of the best books I have ever read. Here’s a review of the book http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/02/books/review/02MORGANTW.html

    This story really stayed in my mind.

    I have just changed the header on the Covey View blog and will be changing it again in two weeks. I thought I would ask permission to use your photograph of the Chicago skyline from your post. I can use the one in the media library and it seems it will reproduce well as a header.

    Thanks for visiting and reading my posts, Nate. Now that I am not travelling I will have more time to visit and read blogs as well. 🙂

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