Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


So Many Books

Oct 09, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

BirchBark Bookshop is a locally-owned store in an old barn in Parishville, NY that carries 75,000 used books on never-ending shelves. It’s open from  1-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays all year, and the day we visited was as glorious an autumn day in the North Country as you could wish for. After asking what I was reading, the owner steered me to the YA section where I chose Misty of Chincoteague and Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague, both by Marguerite Henry. Misty received a 1948 Newbery Honor Award, and Sea Star which came out in 1949 told of the filming of the wild-horse round up, and later led to a movie.


Oct 01, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Congratulations to my good friend Joanne Russo Insull on her latest book: 43 Windthorpe Road. Three of us, who read through many revisions of this YA mystery,  agreed we couldn’t wait to read it!  

Hits and a Miss

Sep 19, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

USA TODAY’s insert for Woman of the Year in the Sept. 12 paper started with Quannah Chasinghorse, an amazing woman who has become an environmental activist, model and Native American advocate. Others honored  included famous women like Goldie Hawn and Michelle Obama, and lesser knowns like a NASA astronaut, a deaf and LGBTQ+ college president, a professor, an actress, an LGBTQ+ governor, and a Chinese-American author. I didn’t read all the state honorees, but the NYS woman whose niece died in the supermarket murders in Buffalo last year, made me pause.

Touching Stories

Sep 11, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

In A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal 1830-32, Joan W. Blos’s 1980 Newbery Award winner, 13-year-old Catherine is the mother-of-the-house for her widowed father and younger sister in New Hampshire. Her entry for January 1831 told of the sisters bundling up to watch eleven teams of oxen clear country roads after heavy snows. The day ended with their father using his axe to break off chunks of frozen soup to thaw for the evening meal. Catherine’s friendship with a neighbor, school and church attendance, weddings and deaths were honestly told.

The Six Month Mark

Aug 30, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Last week, I passed the six-month mark after heart surgery by doing things I couldn’t have imagined at the end of February. Biggest on my to-do list was getting back to rowing on the Genesee River with my teammates on ROCCREW Naiades Rowing Over Cancer. It was as good as I remembered and much harder. What made me think I could row in June? I really enjoy cardiac rehab with the great team at URMC at Canal View Boulevard but as prepared as I was, it was still an effort. Even so, being an experienced rower in a learn-to-row boat introducing the sport to others was wonderful!

Summery Days

Aug 27, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Saturday was a gorgeous summer day – sunny, breezy and just right.  My good day was made even better by reading two books that I hadn’t expected to like.

To my surprise, the first page of A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (1981) by Nancy Willard, drew me in immediately. The marvelous illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen kept me fascinated the whole read. This Newbery-Award winner was imaginative and oh-so clever.

Catching Up

Aug 18, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Shattered Dreams: The Lost and Canceled Space Missions (2019) by  Colin Burgess was a good-but-slow-read. I got it from the library to read about cosmonaut-journalist Svetlana  Omeklchenko’s story because she wrote a book about UFOs. I didn’t find her book, but I wanted to learn more about her.

The Need to Know

Jul 30, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

After my family moved to France when I was 7, I went to a French Catholic girls' school. Four years later when we moved back to the same suburban house, parish and grammar school, I read, wrote and thought in French better than English and was out of step with my classmates.

Up Close and Personal

Jul 26, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

On July 15, I had the privilege of hearing Kenneth Morris Jr., share how he became involved in the work that he does. He spoke at a Frederick Douglass Week event at Anna Murray Douglass Academy in Rochester, New York. Morris and his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, are direct descendants of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. He shared what moved him to stop exploitation of children around the world, and she added beautifully to his remarks. This goal of ending trafficking led them to found the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative (FDFI) in 2007.

Reading Goals

Jul 16, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe
My goal of reading all the Newbery award books has been satisfying and full of surprises. Starting with 1922, this week I finished Virginia Hamilton’s 1975 Newbery winner, M. C. Higgins, the Great. What an amazing blend of people, place, style and perspective.

What We Like

Jul 08, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

As my family sorted books lately, a favorite surfaced: The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story by Jean Giono (1985/2005). To my amazement it was like reading it for the first time.  Most likely I skipped over the foreword by Wangari Maathi, skipped the afterword, and read only the touching story with magnificent wood engravings by Michael McCurdy. Now I know what a world changer Maathi was and eagerly read about reforestation. 

Summertime Reading

Jun 26, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Sitting in the shade with a lovely breeze blowing while reading Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle’s has to be one of life’s quiet pleasures. The paper had a good blend of articles on the Jazz Fest, Barack Obama, coverage of the local primaries, and the tragic fire at an adult home in Rockland that brought out the best and the bitterness in that community.

All That Stuff

Jun 23, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Although both of Margareta Magnusson’s books were satisfying, I enjoyed her second one more than her first, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (2017). In the first, her take was similar to Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2010) that I had also liked. The way Magnusson repeated that after your death, no one wants all your stuff, was straightforward without being mean.


Jun 17, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

When the first Frederick Douglass Monument and Wreath Laying Ceremony was held in downtown Rochester in 1899, 10,000 people attended. About 50 came to the 124th Commemoration on Jun 9, at Highland Park. Octogenarian Joan Coles Howard, who hadn’t missed a wreath laying since she was a girl, added to the occasion. I shared a program with people sitting near me who had never heard “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Singing it together was uplifting. The speakers and tributes were also uplifting, but the Frederick Douglass Steppers were fabulous!

Two Sides

Jun 10, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

The up side of finishing The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk (2014), is that I learned a lot about how people react differently to trauma. The down side is that some examples were stunning and triggering. The book showed me the importance of practicing how to relax.

What's It Like?

Jun 02, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Yesterday, I found out what I need to know to upload All Rights for All as an eBook, but coming up with its description is still a challenge.  I have to have a short clear answer to, what’s it like?

Acts of Kindness

May 30, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

In the article in Sunday’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “A look back at the forgotten history of Memorial Day,” Richard Gardner wrote that the annual observance began in 1866 in Columbus, Georgia, where mourners, usually women, decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers.

Summer Reading List

May 24, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

What a pleasure to look through the Summer Reading Special Edition in Sunday’s paper. The selections were a treat: heroics, thrillers, memoir, celebrity memoirs, new reads, gift books, poetry and adaptations. The thought of any one of them with a comfy chair, in warm weather, made me smile. Thank you, USA Today Network.  

Catch Up

May 18, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe
While in the process of updating my website, I came across this piece for the second edition of Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad. It appeared last July on NYS Almanack.

A Way With Words

May 07, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Business coach George Kao has such a way with words. In his May post, he wrote about accepting being exactly where you are, not upset about your level of success. He used the  example of a white-belt martial artist not being ready to compete with a black-belt martial artist. Right.