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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: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,084 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.

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Customer Reviews

The story itself is detailed and very personal.
Liz K
Marilyn Coffey's bright and lucidly written biography of Teresa Martin brings this a too-little known history to light.
carole rosenthal
A sad to glad true story of a very strong woman's journey.
Lucy Blackwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 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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5 of 5 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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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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6 of 8 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katy on November 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Mail -Order Kid describes a system used prior to Child Welfare laws being enacted. The book is written more as a narrative rather than a novel as I felt like I was reading a case history at times. I was reminded as to how our childhood experiences mold us into the adults we become. This particular orphan train rider became a winner but her past never completely left her. It was an interesting read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jofjones on January 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
The story of the Orphan Trains isn't exactly "little known" but this writer gives an interesting account of one orphan's experience. From being placed at age 4 in an unloving and abusive home to a happy and productive adulthood, she presents an inspiring story. There are a few occasions of awkward transitions and misused words that make the book seem somewhat less than professional.
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