Friday, May 23, 2014

Someone New Coming Into Town? Top 3 Required Reading

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I can count on two hands the amount of people I know moving into Portland this summer.

In other words, the migration continues steady.

Of course, if you can, like me, remember when downtown smelled of hops, the buses used push-tape, and the Spring Water corridor at Oaks Bottom was just an old railroad line—you might feel entitled to lift your nose. And so you should. But a good question to ask (while lifting your head up high in a good Oregon snub) is: what makes us natives act like jerks?

One answer could be that in the wave of "newbies" the identity of being a Portlander, even being an Oregonian, is changing, and in our puritanical way we have anxiety to make sure the inherent values of Oregon stay the same.

For this, we need to help educate our new citizens on what it is to be an Oregonian, so they can be proud of our heritage, and so they can adapt.

So, I have some books for you to give to the new PDX'er in your life.

1. Fire at Eden's Gate by Brent Walth

By Pulitzer Prize winner Brent Walth
As far as political biographies go, Brent Walth's biography of Tom McCall is one of the best. Following the life and times of arguably Oregon's best-loved governor, it also tells the story of Oregon coming into its own in the mid-20th century, working through some famous issues as the bottle-tax, river pollutants, and the fight to keep our beaches in public hands.

As much as it is McCall's story, Brent Walth deftly counters with what the identity of Oregon is—from its pioneer roots and its first wealthy families to its contemporary nuances. It is as much the story of Oregon's love of conservation as it is McCall's fight for conservation. A must read for anyone who wants to know the history of Oregon.

2. Mink River by Brian Doyle

Oregon's state book (or should be)
I'm going to say what Portland's Literary Arts has never been able to say, or will not admit to in their dull guardianship of the status quo:  Mink River should be Oregon's state book. Period.

Only published in 2010, Mink River is the most unbelievably beautiful tale of a town on the Oregon coast. In this town, there is joy and there is sorrow. There is the fantastic that blows like a swift wind at the top of a sand dune (shouting "hey!" when you reach the top), there is the ordinary joy of walking to the riverbank to listen to the water.

A customer recently came in and called the book biophilic, which is what best describes this book: a love of life, of all things in nature and in heaven.

I feel like a diatribe isn't worth going into. A comparative analysis, an autopsy into what makes an Oregon book? Maybe later. I think anyone who has read Mink River will understand the claims I am making. And if you haven't read it yet, stop what you are doing. Now.

3. Klickitat Street. (Or, the world of Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary)

The order, if you want to read the books by how the kids of Klickitat Street grow up, goes like this:

The original Portland hipster.

Henry Huggins
Henry & Beezus
Henry & Ribsy
Beezus & Ramona
Henry & the Paper Route
Henry & the Clubhouse
Ramona the Pest
Ramona the Brave
Ramona & Her Father
Ramona & Her Mother
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Ramona's World
Ramona Forever

So, I'm cheating a little by putting 14 books as 1 book to read, but seriously, two of these books can be read in a day. And they are worth it. Where Mink River is a new book that will utterly change the nature of Northwest letters, Ramona and the kids of Klickitat continues to shape the generations of Oregonians growing up today.

For #fridayreads, this is pretty much a glib post to give us Portlanders a good start educating the newest member of our community, as soon as they land. Clearly, I'm missing some titles. So, what are the books that you give to your new Portland native? Let us know!

~ James Maynard, May 2014

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