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Mail-Order Kid: An Orphan Train Rider's Story Paperback – May 6, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: "out West" Press (May 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0962631728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962631726
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,101,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Great Plains writer Marilyn June Coffey has written three books, 600 poems, and dozens of articles and stories. A trained journalist (B.A., University of Nebraska, 1959) and creative writer (M.F.A., Brooklyn College, 1981), she has produced work that includes a popular memoir, a record-setting novel, and a prize-winning poem. Her poem, "Pricksong," reviewed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Newsweek, won a national Pushcart Prize. Coffey's novel Marcella made literary history. It was the first novel written in English to use female autoeroticism as a main theme. Gloria Steinem called it "an important part of the truth telling by and for women." Quartet in London published it in paperback; Pol in Australia and Ms. excerpted it, and Danish newspapers serialized it. In 1989, Coffey's memoir, Great Plains Patchwork, appeared. The New York Times called it entertaining and insightful. Atlantic Monthly featured a chapter as its cover story. Natural History bought two chapters, American Heritage one. Harper & Row, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich printed excerpts. Known as a prose stylist, Coffey received a Master Alumnus award for distinction in the field of writing from the University of Nebraska in 1977. Since 1987, the UN-L Archives has collected forty boxes of Coffey's papers in its Mari Sandoz room. In 1991, Coffey investigated the orphan train movement, developing three programs for the Nebraska Humanities Council. One became the second most popular of the 232 programs underwritten by NHC and spurred her to write Mail-Order Kid. Now retired, Coffey taught writing at Boston University, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and Fort Hays State University in Kansas for thirty-four years, twice earning tenure. She became an interpretive reader/performer, appearing on local radio stations, statewide TV, and before more than 130 groups in twelve states, from Maine to Texas. Coffey is an Admiral in the Great Navy of Nebraska, the state's highest honor. However, the honorary title is given tongue in cheek, since Admirals in landlocked Nebraska claim jurisdiction over little but tadpoles. Governor J. James Exon appointed Coffey, a Nebraska native, an Admiral in 1977 for her writing achievements.

Customer Reviews

The story itself is detailed and very personal.
Liz K
My grandfather was an Orphan Train rider, and so it was wonderful to hear another success story from that program.
Sharon Miner
A sad to glad true story of a very strong woman's journey.
Lucy Blackwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By carole rosenthal on November 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kira Gale on September 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dorothy S. Ward on May 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Norma, Council Bluffs, IA on October 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
When I particularly enjoy a book, I read it again. This is a book I will read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bj on July 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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