Posts Tagged ‘book review’

I had heard of Vicki Blum Vigil’s Cleveland Cemeteries book before I ever saw a copy. John Stark Bellamy II has referred to her book in more than one of his publications. The book has its strengths and weaknesses.

One big point in the book’s favor is the extensive listing of cemeteries. For every cemetery listed, Vigil provides the address, caretaker, office and gate hours (accurate at the time of publication, of course), cemetery size, and number of burials. This information is really helpful for planning a trip. Of course, the sheer number of cemeteries listed in the book translates to only a few pages for each one. My one caveat of the book is that it feels very cursory for this reason. Most cemeteries have information on fewer than 10 of the residents buried there, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of consistency in what kinds of graves merit note. Revolutionary War veterans generally receive mention, and sometimes Civil War veterans as well, but after that it is unpredictable. I noticed this after I explored the Euclid (Township) Cemetery. In Blum’s book, she mentions the grave of Raymond Gould, victim of the Lake View School fire of 1908. But seven victims of that fire have markers here – in addition to Raymond Gould, there are three double-gravestones: Fern and Wanita Robinson, Lillian and Otto Rostock, and Erma and Rose Buschman. The Rostock and Buschman markers mention the fire specifically. The inconsistency combined with the limited space means that you might not find information on a lot of the graves. This does, however, keep the book small and light enough to toss in your bag and keep with you. The information the book incorporates on address, hours, and size make it worth owning for anyone looking to explore the many cemeteries of Cleveland and the vignettes included will appeal to any history buff with an interest in Cleveland, but it’s a beginning rather than a comprehensive guide.

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A few notes before we begin are in order. Sometimes I will use this blog to comment on media that pertains to cemetery research and visiting. Most of these are not likely be full-scale, professional reviews – I’m planning to tell you what I liked and found useful to me as a cemetery visitor, researcher, and blogger. I’ll also let you know if there were any flaws that I noticed.

I just finished reading Marilyn Yalom’s The American Resting Place, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in United States cemeteries. Using a sampling of cemeteries (approximately 250) from across the U.S., Yalom traces uses cemeteries to trace American history, particularly attitudes toward death and dying, shifts in religious sentiment and observances, and the migration of ethnic groups. One of the things I appreciated about Yalom’s work is that she did not pretend to be comprehensive – in the opening pages of the book, she acknowledges that staggering number of cemeteries that dot the United States. The graveyards she highlights are examples of larger trends she wishes to illustrate, but retain their distinct individual eccentricities and personalities. Yalom narrates the book with a passion for cemeteries and a tenderness towards the deceased the cemetery buffs will appreciate and recognize. The photographs, stunning in the starkness of black and white, are the work of her travel companion and son, Reid S. Yalom. They alone are worth the price of the book.

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