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Home Front Girl in New Edition: Available in Paperback

Joan at age 17 when she was keeping her diary.

I’m delighted to announce that Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America has just been released as a paperback. My mother would be thrilled to know how many people have been touched by–and learned from–her diary entries as a teenager from 1937-43. As a historian herself, Joan was committed to recording the voices of those who made history. Not the politicians or generals, but everyday folks like herself. Kirkus called it “better than fiction.” Joan’s true story spoken from the heart conjures up a world of delicate, touching and–often–humorous reflection on what it means to be human.

Find out details for ordering my mom’s book here.


Star Blogger!

I’m so delighted that Story Circle Network chose me as this month’s “Star Blogger.” I’m deeply grateful to this organization–the wonderful and inspiring writers in it have offered support, concrete suggestions, and amazing energy. In fact, it was at my first Story Circle Network Conference, called Stories from the Heart that I went to a talk on starting a blog. I remember the speaker asked us to brainstorm about what topic you could imagine writing many posts about. That was in 2012, before Home Front Girl had been accepted for publication by Chicago Review Press. Little did I know that I would be blogging about my mom, her diary from 1937-1943, and World War II. I’ve been doing it for over 5 years with 137 posts (this makes 138!). Since then I’ve begun two other blogs, one for my novel Grendel’s Mother and issues dealing with Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon society and the other for my book on medieval women.

It all started with Story Circle–and now they have honored me with this designation. Many thanks to my Story Circle sisters!

A Tribute to the Real Rosie the Riveter

A 1942 photograph of Naomi Parker Fraley that was the likely inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter poster. Credit Getty Images. From The New York Times article

My mother, Joan, was no Rosie the Riveter, though she did work for two weeks one summer as a can inspector. As she writes in her trademark dry way on June 20, 1941 at age 18, “Got first paycheck yesterday. 44¢—for six hours and deducted for my uniform. 2¢ on my Social Security. My old age is assured.”

The real Rosie the Riveter, Naomi Parker Fraley, died this week. A New York Times article explores the detective work undertaken by James J. Kimble at Seton Hall University to uncover who really inspired that famous poster depicting a woman with that iconic headscarf with the words “We Can Do It!”

Both the complicated detective work and the life of Ms. Fraley are well worth examining here.

My mother describes her factory work with her characteristic humor.

Friday, June 13, 1941

Hullo—Friday the 13th—Fine time to start writing in here…School’s out as you may have guessed—a surprise! I’m working. Burry Biscuit Co. Factory girl after a year of college—father almost died laughing and forbade me to go but I went anyhow.. . . . I’m gonna get paid $6 a week. He almost died again. Of course momma doesn’t disapprove—she wouldn’t! It’s only for two weeks though—till I go to camp, so it’s really nothing to get excited about. 33¢ an hour.

I worked today already. Everyone was so nice yesterday when I went to look for the job . . . Helpful young men all over and old ones pointing out the way and all . . . When I got to this place a young fellow out back said I looked lost and escorted me in to the office. Today I ran into him again and he had to show me where the lunchroom was. He was standing among a whole lot of flour sacks. I thought he was an office boy! He came around later this afternoon—and, lo and behold, he isn’t only the Big Boss, but he owns the factory. Oh joy, Joan, you’re doing fine!

Anyhow, it wasn’t bad today. It sure wasn’t intellectual and I got the hang of searing the boxes (and not my hands) in about half an hour and had the rest of the morning to think. Once I seared my hands and forgot to breathe. I’d been searing my hands all the time though, so it didn’t really mean a thing. It’s not bad at all, really—I didn’t like packing crackers so much though, ’cause you’re in too much of a hurry, but you get used to it, I guess.

It’s fun talking to all the girls and everything—I feel like Susan Lenox[1] or something—and where is it? Clearing, Illinois! Miles out and cows all around. What I like best is the walk over the dirt road from the streetcar. Green grass all around and daisies springing up and cows—positively cows. It’s quite delightful: Well—it’s only two  weeks to go, so why get excited?

Monday, June 16, 1941

Well—work today. Joan, the little factory girl. Only I wasn’t today—Inspector Wehlen, call me. I inspected millions of army ration cans—for the USA. Defensive work. Caught myself humming the “Star-Spangled Banner” and reflected it was the same as making munitions. It is too, you know. Boss came over and worked with me for a while. We two alone all at the end of the belt. Only trouble was, I couldn’t hear a word he was saying.

It’s funny. It’s rather mindless work there you know—as indeed I remarked to the boss. So as I get rather bored, I recite to myself or sing . . . Have gone through Housman[3]—Shakespeare—all the speeches from Julius Caesar and everything I like . . . the sonnets . . . “No longer mourn for me when I am dead.”[4] It’s really not bad. I fear in two weeks I may run out though—my repertory is not so large. The machinists there may have a strike.

Wednesday, June 18, 1941

Work goes on. Back on the army order today . . . inspecting. They sent for me too. Boss fixed up a comfy corner for me and turned on the fan and brought me sugar cubes. . . . Not very sympathetic as to my broken nail. Nice though: I can’t get over the feeling I’m there studying the girls—and not really proletariat. It’s quite irritating. I feel in league with the boss. My hands are all cut.

Friday, June 20, 1941

Hello. Time’s a-passing. Still at the factory. Was going to quit today, but we get time and a half, 50¢ an hour for tomorrow. So am staying on. Passed 67,438 cans of army rations today. Uncle Sam doesn’t know what I’m doing for him. Almost passed out today. Terribly hot. Ate salt tablet. . . .

Got first paycheck yesterday. 44¢—for six hours and deducted for my uniform. 2¢ on my Social Security. My old age is assured. Found a note from one of the girls in a can . . . I let it go. It was harmless and who knows when it may be found. In war, in blood, in pain. . . . Have begun singing the “La Marseillaise” instead of “Star-Spangled Banner” as I work. You can see how I’ve changed. Am dead tired. Oh my back!

. . . This is practically making munitions like I always said I’d probably end up. . . . The cookies are hard enuf. I see the cans in my dreams passing before me in shining rows, like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. . . .

Friday, June 27, 1941

My paycheck, incidentally, was $16.77. Sound pretty good, huh? I wanted to frame it. 17¢ off on my Social Security. That makes me feel better. Who knows how I’ll be when I’m sixty.


[1] A Greta Garbo film from 1931; the heroine becomes a woman of easy virtue. There is also a call slip from the university library tucked into Joan’s Graded German Reader from October 1940 for the book Susan Lenox by David Phillips.

[2] Professor John R. Davey, who taught humanities for many years.

[3] A. E. Housman was Joan’s favorite poet.

[4] From Sonnet 71.

[5] A ship sunk by a German U-boat in May 1941 after the Germans evacuated it of crew and passengers.

[6] Her Swedish uncle. Joan’s paternal grandmother and all of the family on Joan’s father’s side (except for her father and one uncle) stayed in Sweden.


Auld Lang Syne from January 1, 1938

New Year’s Eve parties can be tough on the toes, even in 1939

When my mother Joan had just turned 16, she wrote a poem on December 31, 1938. It purveys the poignant longing of a teenage girl, yearning for the past and fearful of a future beset by rumblings of war.

Lovely party!

New Year’s Eve 1938          

New Year Moment

Time, time, gather up your skirts for a moment

But do not depart.

Linger a while; I would hold this moment

Always in my heart.

Time, time – I want to steal this moment

Put it in an archive

Far within my heart.  Then you may go out,

Leaving one past, and live.

The Blackhawk Restaurant was in Chicago, thriving just when Joan lived there

A Christmas and New Year’s card sent in Chicago a week before my mother wrote her poem

Christmas Greetings from 1932

Children Wait for Santa, Snack, Stockings, by Fern Bisel Peat, 1932

My mother, Joan, wrote this Christmas poem when she had just turned 10.  Merry Christmas from 1932!

Coming through the blue, blue sky,

Swiftly as a bird can fly,

Reindeer pulling o’er the snow,

Children seeing Santa go.

Santa Claus comes through the sky,

Swiftly as a bird can fly,

Reindeer pulling him o’er the snow,

O’er the housetop Santa will go.



Inclusion Keeps Us Safe

Read this wonderful article by Liza Mundy about female code-breakers during WWII. Inclusion can keep us safe.

Travis Heights Art Trail 2017

Come to the Travis Heights Arts Trail, Saturday November 4, 2017

Part of the Travis Heights Arts Trail includes an Author Showcase. I’ll be reading on Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 11 a.m. to noon about historic and legendary Germanic women. As you listen to local authors read from their books at this Literary event at the beautiful Fairview Inn at 1304 Newning, Austin, TX, stop by the Austin Book Arts Center display, in the hotel dining room. You can make a book, or print a Christmas card. Both Days – Noon and 3pm.

Here is a map of the events in the neighborhood.

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