Janice Kuehn (May 2007, English major) selected James Michener's Chesapeake
. Janice explains why:
"There could likely be no other book that I would relate to so closely-I grew up in Baltimore, and I was a real "water rat"-I boated, fished, crabbed and swam every chance I got as a kid.
"When I was 20, my husband and I bought a big sailboat and kept it on Middle River (just above Baltimore), and we had the time and energy to explore the bay, especially the Eastern shore. Many was the week that found us "down south," anchored out in a new creek, meeting other boaters, tasting great local seafood and just learning the geography "from the water." We both raced with a crew out of Annapolis for many years, and we loved doing the skiing, hobie-cat, day-sailing thing too.
"When our children came along, we started going down to Camp Tockwogh on the Eastern shore, just below the Sassafras River. Every summer we'd have our "YMCA Adventure" vacation there-the camp offered (and still does) sailing, skiing, hobie-catting, riding, tennis, hiking, crafts, a beautiful pool, and other "family camp" activities galore, all in the rather unique "Eastern Shore" setting. It's kind of like "Florida meets the Maryland Blue Crab Society!"
"During my senior year at PSU I took down my old copy of Michener's book and reread it. I enjoyed it all over again; it was an informative (and unique) primer on American history. Michener had roots here too-he attended Swarthmore College for a while and worked in one of the old local Swarthmore restaurants. His book "Hawaii" was one of the first full-scale novels I ever read. My mother used to aggressively scavenge used books for me, and she brought that one home while I was still in grade school. I loved it!!!
"While re-reading "Chesapeake," I could almost taste the Choptank water-somewhat more salty than Sassafras water, but clearer too. (More jellyfish down there though, not a good thing when it's hot and you just need to cool off.)
"I remember one particular summer regatta I raced in-we barreled over from Annapolis to St Michaels the first day, and most of us sailers had to anchor out in the Miles River, as all the good docking spots were of course nabbed by the big boats, which always post the best times ( they arrive first). We anchored out and bathed ourselves as best we could with bars of soap in the river. That night we all attended a lovely dance at the Yacht Club; the Naval Academy was heavily represented by mid-shipmen who'd competed that day on the five matching Academy yawls (even their spinnakers all matched-it was truly impressive!) They all (guys and gals) wore navy shirts and white shorts while racing, but they all showed up in their dress whites for the regatta dance. There was a severe shortage of ladies, so I got to dance with a great many future commodores.
"That day, every time a boat crossed the finish line, a small "mini-destroyer" that the US Navy had perched in the river fired off her bow cannon-way cool!!!!
"While he was researching his book, Michener sailed, crabbed, oystered, and generally did the land-rat and water-rat thing for a couple of years all over the Chesapeake. He must have been quite a guy!"