Chapter 2 of Canoedling in Cleveland is entitled, “Racing Randy.” Protagonist Jeff and friend Randy are pitted against each other in a swimming race across Hinckley Lake near Cleveland where swimming is prohibited. It’s all to impress Lori, their companion adventurer. Then they square off in a canoe race. But they only have one canoe. They consider each paddling from point A to B and timing the results. Then Jeff has the idea of facing each other in the same canoe and racing each other to opposite shores. The first thing they learn is that by paddling on opposite sides of the canoe, they go in a circle and make no headway in either direction. Then Jeff suggests they both paddle on the same side. To gain an advantage, he paddles on his strong side (his right) and leaves Randy paddling on his weak side. So, Jeff is winning the race when . . . You can write the ending or read the rest in Chapter 2.
When I was writing this chapter, I was pretty sure the canoe would go in a circle if they paddled on opposite sides, but I had to be sure. So I conducted a rigorous scientific experiment to prove my theory. I had life-long friend (almost), Dave, paddle in one end of the canoe, and my life-long son Alex face him in the other end. Sure and begorra, they went in a slow circle. Then they paddled on the same side (Alex’s strong side), and Alex won. Dave says it’s because Alex was in the middle of the canoe. The whole point to this is that research is crucial to writing fiction. The author has the obligation to tell the truth to the reader.
Canoedling in Cleveland is set in 1960, which may make it an historical novel—if it dealt with larger than life events and people. Still, I had an obligation to paint every scene as it would have been half a century ago. That included describing the poisoned Cuyahoga River from Akron to Lake Erie, and the residential segregation of the city.
The teens do their own research into reasons for the racial divide, but they could only use books published before 1960. Here, I only cheated once. I had them discover Nelson Callahan and William Hickey, Irish Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland, Cleveland State University, 1978.
They could not use Kenneth Kusmer’s fine book, A Ghetto Takes Shape, Black Cleveland, 1870-1930, Massey & Denton’s American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, Todd Michney’s Race, Violence, and Urban Territoriality: Cleveland’s Little Italy and the 1966 Hough Uprising, and Changing Neighborhoods: Race and Upward Mobility in Southeast Cleveland, 1930-1980, and Antero Pietila’s Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (Baltimore). They also could not gain insights from Beverly Tatum’s Assimilation Blues: Black Families in White Communities: Who Succeeds and Why? nor from James Loewen’s Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. They could not constantly consult The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History by David Van Tassel and John Grabowski and the online Encylopedia of Cleveland History. They had to rely on older texts, such as Gunnar Myrdal’s seminal work, An American Dilemma, 1944, and Charles Abrams’ outstanding Forbidden Neighbors, 1955—while I had the benefit of the later books.
I added to my research interviews with historians John Grabowski of Case Western Reserve University and the Western Reserve Historical Society, and Phil Ardussi of the Rocky River Historical Society, among others. I took water trips up the Cuyahoga in the Cleveland flats, a train ride down the upper Cuyahoga from Peninsula to Brecksville, and road trips and virtual trips down the other rivers. All in the name of research.
Bibliography of Canoedling in Cleveland
Abrams, Charles, Forbidden Neighbors, Harper & Brothers, 1955.
Ardussi, Phil, Richard Maturi and Jim Sanders, Rocky River Yesterday, 2012, The Rocky River Historical Society.
Callahan, Nelson and William Hickey, Irish Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland, Cleveland State University, 1978.
Jacobson, Cliff, Canoeing & Camping beyond the basics, 1992, A Falcon Guide, Morris Book Publishing, LLC.
Kusmer, Kenneth L., A Ghetto Takes Shape, Black Cleveland, 1870-1930, University of Illinois Press, 1976.
Lestock, Carol, Rocky River Ohio, Images of America, Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
Loewen, James W., Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, Touchstone, 2005 [All White On Purpose]
Massey, Douglas S. & Denton, Nancy A., American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, Harvard University Press, 1993.
Michney, Todd M., Race, Violence, and Urban Territoriality: Cleveland’s Little Italy and the 1966 Hough Uprising, Cleveland State University, Journal of Urban History, Vol. 32 No. 3, March 2006, and Changing Neighborhoods: Race and Upward Mobility in Southeast Cleveland, 1930-1980, U. of Minnesota, 2009.
Miller, Carol Poh and Wheeler, Robert A., Cleveland, A Concise History, 1796-1996, edited by John Grabowski and David D. Van Tassel, Case Western Reserve University,1990, 1997.
Myrdal, Gunnar, An American Dilemma, Harper and Row, 1944.
Pietila, Antero, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (Baltimore), Ivan R. Dee [Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group], 2010
Tatum, Beverly Daniel, PH.D, President of Spelman College, Assimilation Blues: Black Families in White Communities: Who Succeeds and Why?, Greenwood Press, 1987.
Van Tassel, David D. and Grabowski, John, The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Case Western Reserve University, 1991. www.ech.cwru.edu