Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


Mixed Feelings

Apr 08, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I was captivated by the big-screen wonder of the movie Cabrini, got a biography of Francesca Xavier Cabrini (1850 – 1917), and read through it in a week. Pietro Di Donato’s biography, Immigrant Saint: The Life of Mother Cabrini (1960), was surprisingly different from the movie which went out of its way not to clobber people over the head with Mother Cabrini’s strong Catholic faith.


Apr 01, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe
Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira, which won the 2005 Newbery award, was a touching remembrance of a beloved older sister in a Japanese-American family that endured hardship and insults along the way to owning their own home. The burden of both parents working almost non-stop and giving up their time with their three children to afford it, became heavier with their oldest daughter’s illness.

Green Thumbs

Mar 21, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Many thanks to Jessica Damiano of the Associated Press for the surprising article in Saturday’s Real Estate section on women trailblazers in horticulture. I don’t think I’d ever heard of Jane Colden, the first female American botanist in the 1750s. Nor had I heard of Beatrix Farrand, the first lady of American landscape architecture in the early 1900s. I’d heard of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, but not as founder of the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, Mississippi in the late 1960s.

Beloved Books

Mar 06, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I sorted through another box of books and found so many favorites. Sigh! I had to remind myself that others will enjoy them too. Women, Heroes and a Frog: Human Situations in pictures by Nina Leen (1970) fell open to a softened image of a couple tucked in bed. The saying by Herman Melville ended with “. . . and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning.” So tender.

Leap Day Update

Feb 29, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder (2001 Newbery winner) returned us to Grandma Dowdel’s small town in 1937, still hit hard by the Depression. Such fascinating characters and plot! I had absolutely loved his A Long Way from Chicago, the 1999 Newbery honoree, and while not as powerful as that, the down-home adventures in Down Yonder still hit the spot.

At the Moment

Feb 07, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I picked up two Newbery award winners at the library last week, and started Bud, Not Buddy (2000) by Christopher Paul Curtis. What a stunning story of an orphaned ten-year-old Black boy in Flint, in the 1930s. Curtis’s word choices are wonderful. The story’s pace and the plot deliver one surprise after the next. Can’t wait to find out how it ends. I have not yet started Holes (1999 winner) by Louis Sachar.

New beginnings

Jan 28, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

E. L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday, (1997 Newbery Award) showed four sixth graders from the fictional town of Epiphany, NY who became best friends despite different cultures, divorce, split parenting, racism and bullying.

Amazing Journeys

Jan 22, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

In Walk Two Moons, the 1995 Newbery-Award winner, author Sharon Creech told the “extensively strange story” of Phoebe Winterbottom as shared by 13-year-old “Chickabiddy” Salamanca Tree Hiddle on a cross-country trip with her doddering grandparents. They went to every location from which Sal’s absent mother had sent her a postcard. This is a layered story, full of unusual names, characters and connections. I never predicted the outcome.

Some Favorites

Jan 16, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Last year I read many remarkable books with outstanding characters, settings and plots. Many thanks to: Marguerite deAngeli for Young Robin, who survived the bubonic plague in England, in The Door in the Wall (1950); to Meindert DeJong for Lina, set in a Dutch hamlet that no longer had storks, in The Wheel on the School (1955); to Harold Keith for 16-year-old Jefferson Davis Bussey and his mishaps during the Civil War in Rifles for Waitie (1958).

Happy Surprises

Jan 03, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Lately the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s sports section has had a number of satisfying articles. One was the feature with photos about Najiah Knight, a 17 year-old from Oregon, who plans to champion in professional bull riding. Knight has had her eye on winning since she was 3 . Thank you to AP reporter Anne M. Peterson and others for this engaging story.


Dec 28, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

It was worth the price of a subscription to read the article in Sunday’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on how wrongfully-imprisoned Michael Rhynes not only endured 37 years in prison, but touched many people’s lives for the better. Rhynes studied holy books before finding redemption from his living nightmare. Thank you to Justin Murphy for local reporting that made reading the newspaper worthwhile.

To-Do List

Dec 12, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

I usually have a to-do list. Now that my husband and I are downsizing, my list has grown if not exploded making it harder to stay on top of my goal of reading all the Newbery Award winners. I have about 30 to go, but I’ve been sidelined by books that I plan to let go of, like two of Shel Silverstein’s: A Light in the Attic (1981) and Falling Up (1996). They brought back fond memories from our children’s school days.

Workable Solutions

Dec 07, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

After reading the “Your Turn” article in Sunday’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “Support the Rights of All to Grieve and Protest” by Mical Raz and Nora Rubal, my husband handed it to me to read, saying it was good. I agreed, it was.

Full Circle

Dec 04, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Saturday, while sitting by my card table at Boulder Coffee Café, one of the first people to stop by was former city photographer Ira Srole. Ira pointed to the top of the cover of my third book, Historic Genesee Country, and said he took that picture. I told him that was the first picture I ever saved on what turned out to be many long dark winter evenings scrolling through the Rochester Public Library’s online images and I still had it in my photos files. Wow. After retiring from the city a few years ago, Ira now works full time at the George Eastman Museum. He also writes plays and has one pending about the upcoming solar eclipse this coming spring.


Nov 17, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

While sorting my books to let some go, I gave in to the temptation to re-read a few. Runnin’ Crazy, (1996) by then Rochester City Historian Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck with Edward P. Curtis Jr., took me by surprise. I’m sure I’d looked at the old photos after I bought it at a history talk in 2008. This time, I read all the text and felt so touched by the last-page description of the authors by the late historian Shirley Cox-Husted.


Nov 11, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

When I had to rest up after surgery eight months ago, magazines, like the monthly CITY, brightened my day – and still do. The November 2023 issue on food and drink had a lively blend of photos of people and food, and the events calendar was so entertaining. Jeff Spevak’s “End of an Error” gave a memorable overview of his 44-year career.

Our Big Day

Nov 03, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Last night I heard acclaimed author Lesa Cline Ransome speak at our monthly RACWI meeting. Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators organizes the Children's Book Festival to be held tomorrow at Monroe Community College, and she was guest speaker ahead of our big day. Cline Ransome gave a powerful and humorous view of her writing career.

The Love of Books

Nov 01, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

I am looking forward to Rochester Children’s Book Festival this Saturday Nov. 4 at MCC from 10 am. to 4 p.m. In the morning, I will listen to other wonderful authors. Starting at 1 p.m., I will sign my books, and at 3:20 I will give a talk on “Why the Frederick Douglass family moved to Rochester.” A books lovers’ heaven.

The Proof

Oct 20, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

It was a pleasure to receive the paperback proof for All Rights for  All: Working for Justice on Wednesday. They say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” and it looked good to me. The link through Amazon is

On Kindness

Oct 11, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

A kind friend told me that on Amazon you have to click through "Read More" to see the links Got it.

Since the fruit on the pawpaw trees in our backyard have started to ripen, I have to check them for drops and those still hanging. Pawpaws are a fussier than avocados for being edible only when exactly ripe. You have to peel the skin, remove the large seeds,  and then it’s best to mash the pulp with lemon juice. The flavor is so intense, it can be a bit much, but the mash is good for smoothies or to use instead of bananas in banana bread recipes.