Prohibition-era Akron is the setting for Zemsta, a debut novel by Florida author Victoria Brown. It follows the story of three childhood friends: Nick, who changes his Polish surname to Henry for his newspaper career; Charlie, middle child of a huge Irish family, who joins the Akron police force; and ambitious Kurt, who seeks to overcome his childhood as the son of a struggling widowed boardinghouse operator.
Kurt’s determination to live the high life gets him involved with Cantrell, a crooked lawyer and bootlegger, and his niece, a scornful good-time girl whose allure makes Kurt forget his longtime sweetheart.
Nick’s father, Albo, has been framed for the murder of a debutante at the country club where he worked, and the three young men have vowed to clear his name. Albo was a surrogate father to Charlie and Kurt, but now Kurt’s involvement with Cantrell may jeopardize the enterprise.
The meaning of “Zemsta,” the book’s curious title, isn’t made clear until near the end, when Nick’s sister Antonia joins the trio to avenge Albo.
Zemsta touches on social issues of the ’20s, when Akron was a stronghold of groups like the Ku Klux Klan that targeted not only African-Americans but also Jewish, Catholic and immigrant workers who had been attracted by the labor boom of the rubber industry. There are some other good historical details, but the dialogue is not always convincing.
Zemsta (268 pages) costs $12.95 from online retailers. According to the book’s acknowledgments, Victoria Brown consulted with her mother, Virginia, who grew up in Akron.
In Biting the Moon: A Memoir of Feminism and Motherhood, her introspective recounting of her life and career, retired College of Wooster professor Joanne S. Frye writes from the perspective of almost 45 years since she, as a 23-year-old graduate student, married a professor 10 years her senior.
Frye and her then-husband, Lawrence, lived on an Indiana farm while he taught classes, and he expected her to do all the housework and, later, child care. Fry documents her frustrations and grievances: Though she tried to make progress on her dissertation, she found herself with no life beyond that of motherhood and domestic work, while her overbearing husband grew more ill-tempered and controlling.
Frye repeats that she felt subservient to him; he controlled where she went, and complained about “baby-sitting” when left in the same room with their children while she washed dishes in the kitchen. “I … shuddered at the risk of being identified as exclusively female: a body rather than a thinking person.”
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, feminism like Frye’s was sneered at. Lawrence claims that Frye was wasting his time when she worked on her own projects, with his demand that she account for her time.
After their divorce, Frye, with her new doctorate from Indiana University, began teaching English and building a women’s study program while striving to retain her identity as a woman, separate from that of a mother.
Biting the Moon (328 pages, hardcover) costs $27.95 from Syracuse University Press. Joanne Frye has remarried, and lives in Wooster.
‘Child of the Revolution’
Ohio and Virginia share the nickname “Mother of Presidents,” each claiming William Henry Harrison. The early life of the Virginia-born Harrison, the first president to die in office, is examined in A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 by biographer Hendrik Booraem V, who also has written about the formative years of Calvin Coolidge and Andrew Jackson.
According to information provided by the publisher, Child of the Revolution tells Harrison’s story through his appointment as secretary of the Northwest Territory. The 264-page hardcover book costs $45 from Kent State University Press. Hendrick Booraem V now is working on a biography of Gerald Ford.
Barnes & Noble (4015 Medina Road, Bath Township) — Alex Grecian, Kansas author of the exceptional debut mystery The Yard, about a Scotland Yard detective in 1889, just after Jack the Ripper has stymied the force, reads from and signs his book at 7 p.m. today.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Norton branch, 3930 Cleveland-Massillon Road) — Matt Lupica discusses and signs The Baseball Stadium Insider: A Comprehensive Dissection of All Thirty Ballparks, the Legendary Players and the Memorable Moments, 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Highland Square branch, 807 W. Market St., Akron) — Beacon Journal columnist Mark J. Price presents his book The Rest is History: True Tales From Akron’s Vibrant Past, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Twinsburg Public Library (10050 Ravenna Road) — Mississippi identical twins Margaret and Katherine King, in town for the Twins Days Festival, read from and sign their comic memoir “Y’All Twins?” 4 to 5:15 p.m. Friday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma Heights branch, 6206 Pearl Road) — P.L. Gaus, Wooster-based author of the Amish-Country Mystery series, talks about Amish culture and signs his books, including the latest, Harmless as Doves, 2 p.m. Saturday. Registration required; call 440-884-2313.
Strongsville Holiday Inn (15471 Royalton Road) — The registration deadline is Aug. 10 for Candace Havens’ Aug. 18 all-day writing workshop “Dream Big, Write Big,” sponsored by the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America. Havens, author of Berkley and Harlequin romances including She Who Dares, Wins and Model Marine, covers concept, theme, query and submission. The $50 fee includes breakfast and lunch. Register at www.neorwa.com.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.