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Hi! Just so you know, my books and poems are either nice--or naughty. My nice books are histories of the truly amazing Great Plains, including the Orphan Trains and county seat wars. Sex rears its head in my naughty works. Plus I think I should tell you that I'm a personal writer. I don't write much that doesn't have an intimate feeling to it, that isn't centered, in some way, on my history. My life began in Alma, a tiny town in south central Nebraska, where I was born and raised. As I lay in bed, listening to my mother read me to sleep, I fell in love with words. Mom read oodles of books to me. My favorite was "The Farm Twins" by Lucy Fitch Perkins. When I turned eleven years old, I decided to be a writer.
At twenty-one, I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree. Then I read Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." Struck with the travel bug, I set out, saw Denver, New Orleans, San Diego, Portland, and New York. I lived in New York City for thirty years, where I taught writing at Pratt Institute, and earned a degree in creative writing from Brooklyn College.
Now I'm back in Nebraska, located in Omaha. I'm a retired professor doing what I love best: writing full time. When I'm not pounding away at my computer, I can usually be found reading, pulling weeds, talking to my cat, or hanging out with my partner, Jack Loscutoff, also a writer. I have become an award winning and internationally published writer of poetry and prose who has written six books, six hundred poems, and hundreds of articles and stories. My awards include a national Pushcart Prize for my poem called "Pricksong," a Master Alumnus award for distinction in writing from the University of Nebraska, and the National Orphan Train Complex's Special President's Award for my biography, Mail-Order Kid. My "naughty" book, Marcella, is the first novel written in English that uses autoeroticism as its main theme. My writing has appeared in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, and Japan.
Between 1854 and 1929 half a million children, "foundlings" like Teresa Martin, were shipped across the United States to start a new life with new families. In this mass migration, known as the "Orphan Train" experience, many defenseless young children became the equivalent of indentured servants to the families that took them in. Marilyn Coffey's bright and lucidly written biography of Teresa Martin brings this a too-little known history to light. Coffey presents a lively tale that begins with initial desolation as the willing and responsible Teresa tries to understand her circumstances, gradually expanding her own view of her life's possibiilities. She endures coldness, indifference, abuse and sexual molestation. She is repeatedly raped by the Judge who has undertaken public responsibility for her well-being. Young Teresa soon understands that only hard work, her own common sense, and endurance can rescue her.
Ultimately, to the pleasure of the reader, Teresa grows up to become an educated and admirable mother, grandmother and public servant. She outlives three husbands. And throughout her travails, Teresa's integrity and ambition triumph. Yet not surprisingly, Teresa yearns for her "real" family, to know her mother, to discover more of her personal history, her own background. It is a surprise to Teresa, raised by nuns as a Catholic in a New York orphanage, then as a "Volga German," to discover almost by accident that her real mother is Jewish. Indeed, Teresa does have living family, and she is able to partially recover her original identity and her own name.Read more ›
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Mail-Order Kid is the true life story of Teresa Martin, who rode the orphan train from New York City to the plains of Kansas as a four year old child in 1910. Teresa's life story spans the twentieth century, and records her resilient and spunky spirit as she survives the sexual and physical abuse of her adoptive parents, works a series of child care and housekeeping jobs, and then enters the world of books and libraries. Married twice, raising two children, and working full time, she nonetheless manages to graduate from high school at age 38 and after that, to earn a college degree in library science. As a respected and beloved medical reference librarian, she discovers that though raised as a Catholic, she is actually of Jewish ancestry and reconnects with members of her family. Teresa also reconnects with fellow orphan train riders and finds the peace and acceptance she has always sought. Marilyn Coffey brings her delightful subject to life. She has gotten into the skin of Teresa Martin, and no subject could want for a better biographer. Flawlessly written, this book is a book that you will want to read in one sitting, and then the story will stay with you. Book clubs will particularly enjoy reading it, and the author has supplied a guide to discussion topics in her introduction.
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I thought the story was very interesting, but she gave the opinion that all Volga Germans were low lives. It was like saying all Jews or blacks, were terrible people. She grew up in a very small town which couldn't possibly represent all of any race. Many Volga Germans worked on the beautiful church in Victoria, Ks which can be seen from I-70. My great grandfather, wife and children were Volga Germans and their ancestors went to the Volga region during the time of Catherine The Great. They were in one of the German settlements and kept away from the Russians and their customs. They sold wild horses to earn enough money to come to the U.S. lt was not easy, but like most Germans, they didn't give up easily. In about 1860, they crossed the frozen Volga to go to the country and city where they were to catch the ship which would carry them to America. My great grandmother was a mid wife as well as organist and vocal soloist. My great grandfather was a black smith. They spent a few years in Kansas and then moved on to the state of Washington where he helped build a university. So, you see, when she lumped them all together I was very disappointed in her careless opinion. Further, most Germans take pride in cleanliness.
I read a book called, The Orphan Train Rider, by Andrea Warren, years ago and found the subject fascinating. I was acquainted with the Children's Aid Society,but knew nothing about this unbelievable program for kids that sent children of all ages to live with families, wanting to adopt, across the country. An unbelievable effort, with mixed success.
This book covers the story of one woman named Theresa from her young childhood in the Foundling Home in New York, to her transport from New York to Kansas at the tender age of three. The good news is she lived a good long life, but the poignancy of her childhood years until young adulthood went straight to my heart. It's a portrait of resiliency, spirit and a need to survive all the insults sent Theresa's way.Her name changes alone were significant:(Jess)Theresa Feit,Bieker,Binder and finally Martin. The journey to meeting with the Orphan Train Society and family,too -remarkable. Marilyn Coffey did an excellent job researching this story and filling in the gaps to create insight into this woman's life that offered the reader the whole picture - no sob story by any stretch. There was tragedy but Theresa's drive to persevere and surface head held high,was the message that came through again and again. Theresa, in rare instances, did feel sorry for herself and the poor luck that led to her station in life, but she didn't grieve for long. She triumphed over her tough lot with each new challenge. I couldn't help but like this sharp, strong woman and enjoyed reading the her biography as written by Marilyn Coffey.
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