Memoir looks at race, medicine and family

In his memoir Keeping Heart, Otis Trotter recalls that as a black child in rural West Virginia in the mid-1950s, he felt himself an outsider in more than one way. In addition to the racial tensions that existed, Trotter had a congenital heart defect that caused him to tire easily and inhibit his growth. He could not play sports or walk to school.

Trotter was third-youngest in a family of 14 children, and only 3 when his father, a coal miner, was shot to death by his mother’s brother, so drunk he didn’t know he’d done it when he sobered up. With many of the older siblings grown, Trotter’s mother relocated her remaining children to Newcomerstown, where they were treated as “black hillbillies,” and one sister was bullied so much that she went to live with another family member in Washington, D.C.

Living in Ohio did have one benefit for Trotter — it provided him access to the medical care he needed, and the first of a series of surgeries to correct his heart defect, at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. He missed months of school, but eventually was able to attend Central State University and study psychology.

The book’s subtitle is “a memoir of family struggle, race, and medicine,” but Trotter’s pride in his family is the prevailing theme, beginning with his mother’s efforts to raise her huge family and citing each sibling’s career (brother Joe William Trotter Jr., a professor of history and social justice at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote the foreword).

Keeping Heart (240 pages, softcover) costs $24.95 from Ohio University Press. Otis Trotter is a retired instructor from the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Dog leaves pawprints on heart

Tears for Teddy is the fictionalized story of Pat and Duane Craig’s dog, Teddy Bear. In the book, their names are Sarah and Tom, but Teddy is still Teddy. The couple has been looking for a pet Pomeranian, and find one in a rusted trailer owned by a “breeder,” who sells them a 4-week-old puppy. A visit to the vet finds him infested with ear mites.

Teddy Bear proves healthy enough, though, and obsessed with chewing furniture, shoes and gloves. Tom grows more infatuated, and is happy when Sarah brings home a female Peke-a-poo and names her Muffin.

Teddy comforts and enchants Sarah and Tom all through his long life. Tears for Teddy (79 pages, softcover) costs $10 from online retailers. Pat Craig also is the author of The Gowganda Pilot and Me: Our Survivals, about her father’s flying expeditions to northeast Ontario. Formerly of Portage Lakes, she now lives in Denver.

Footnotes

• Kent State University alumna Kiki Howell is the editor of We Go On: Charity Anthology for Veterans, to which she also contributed a story, “Coming Back to Life.” The two dozen poems and stories are from various authors. The 139-page softcover book costs $12.95 from online retailers.

• Tickets are on sale for the March 31 John S. Knight Lectureship at E.J. Thomas Hall, An Evening with Carl Bernstein and P.J. O’Rourke: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House. Bernstein, co-author of All the President’s Men, and O’Rourke, author of Republican Party Reptile, will make opening remarks followed by a moderated discussion, questions from the audience and book signing. Tickets are $20; call 330-253-2488.

Events

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Author/illustrator Lindsay Ward (When Blue Met Egg) brings her new storybook The Importance of Being 3, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Poets Phil Metres, Amy Breau and Anna Meek read from their work, 3 p.m. Sunday.

Coventry Library (1925 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Sharona Hoffman, author of Aging with a Plan, and Brandy Schillace, author of What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living, talk about planning for aging and death, 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch, 1876 Green Road, South Euclid) — Authors Deanna Adams (The Writer’s GPS: A Guide to Writing and Selling Your Book), K.C. Maguire (Inside the Palisade) and Betty Ruth Shear (Full Circle: My Success Story Living with Bipolar Disease) lead a Self-Publishing Roundtable, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Registration requested at 216-382-4880.

Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — Historian H.W. Brands, whose The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin and Traitor to his Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, brings his biography Reagan: The Life, 7 p.m. Thursday; Jennifer Maschari brings her middle-grade novel The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, 2 p.m. Saturday. Register for both at 330-653-6658.

Kent Free Library (312 W. Main St.) — Shirley W. Mitchell, author of books including Fabulous after 50 and Sensational after 60, talks about changes in the lives of baby boomers, 3 to 5 p.m. Friday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Brecksville branch, 9809 Brecksville Road) — Author Mary Lee Corlett and illustrator Sophie Cayless talk about their picture book Belle’s Wild Ride: A Painted Butterfly’s Art Museum Adventure, which is set at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. For children 6 to 12 years old or in grades 1 through 7 and their parents. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org. The first 40 children who register will receive a free copy of the book.

— 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 lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.