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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Memoir Describes Life for Women During WWII Occupation

Washington State University Press has released a World War II memoir written by Nicole Taflinger. Unusual because it relates struggles faced by ordinary French citizens, it also provides insight into challenges that arise when different cultures collide. Written for her children decades ago, the author’s guileless voice enhances her adolescent memories of the German occupation—an existence of fear, loss, suffering, and fierce hatred—and illustrates the immense emotional toll of war.

Born as Nicole Braux in 1927, her earliest recollections occur in the French city of Nancy, where her father owned and operated a hotel and restaurant.  Her winsome stories portray childhood challenges, accomplishments, and joys. She conveys the influence and camaraderie of the generous, nurturing men and women—particularly her grandmothers and two Catholic nuns—who were an integral part of her young life. Her charming reflections paint a picture of a romantic culture still wounded by the First World War.

Nicole was twelve when her father was recalled into the reserves. A few months later, she watched German troops invade. “We peeked above the window sill and saw them…Our imaginations hadn’t exaggerated; they looked as evil, if not more so, than we’d expected!” By six o’clock that evening, it was over. Nicole and her remaining family members were under occupation. “Grandmother Marie was our savior…[she] had survived two wars; a third was simply a fact of life.”

Little by little, the Braux family adjusted. They experienced Nazi propaganda, recurrent air raid alerts, gas masks, food rationing, the Black Market, and bombings.  As they struggled simply to acquire food and keep warm, thoughts of the future became irrelevant. Teachers, friends, employers, priests, nuns, and doctors disappeared overnight. Relationships became veiled in worry, suspicion and secrecy. Despite the danger, Nancy citizens quietly resisted. They concocted strategies to elude curfew. They purposely dressed to offend Germans, donning short skirts and makeup, and choosing the bright colors of the French flag. They sold tainted food to the despised troops. As the fighting drew ever closer, desperation and terror increased, but miraculous events brought hope. One day, Nicole dashed unscathed through a shower of bullets. On another, she became part of a spontaneous, compassionate, and courageous gathering of French citizens. Rebelling against the German guards, they formed a chain to toss food to starving POWs aboard a train. Just as the soldiers raised their guns toward the obstinate crowd, RAF fighter planes arrived. For her, it was “one of the most exciting and beautiful moments of the war.”

Finally the inconceivable joy of liberation day came. However, food remained scarce, the fate of her father was still unknown, and now seventeen, Nicole found herself deeply in love with Captain Ancel G. Taflinger, pilot for General George S. Patton and recipient of the Silver Star. Eventually overcoming family objections and interference, their romance culminated in a wedding that yielded a sweet end to Nicole’s season of suffering.

Season of Suffering also includes never-before-published photographs from Captain Taflinger’s collection.

Science with a Contemporary Twist

What did a new kind of MRI reveal about the hearts of older male fitness fanatics? How did an unsavory kitchen blender help save the lives of monkeys in the Bronx Zoo? Why might it be better to buy eggs from your local supermarket? What salt-favoring menace lurks in hospitals and beach sand? Which ancient crop might solve modern problems?

Recent scientific studies have addressed these questions and many more. Dr. Elsa Kirsten Peters regularly pores through journals and interviews researchers, then shares the utterly fascinating results in her nationally-syndicated Rock Doc column. Now the curious geologist has compiled her favorite articles, along with a few new contributions, into Planet Rock Doc: Nuggets from Explorations of the Natural World.

With her wry sense of humor, personal anecdotes, and knack for explaining the complex in simple terms, Peters stretches far beyond geology to explore a wide range of topics related to natural and applied sciences. In the process, she reflects on the remarkable observations and inventions cultivated by great minds of the past.  She comments on current debates and lends promise to the future, illuminating cutting-edge research. For easy access, articles are arranged by subject matter—geology and paleontology, energy and engines, food and agriculture, climate change, human health, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and education and history.

Dr. Peters, a native of rural Washington State, earned her doctorate from the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at Harvard University. She taught undergraduate-level courses for a decade and is the author or co-author of numerous journal articles, as well as several textbooks.

Available in paperback, Planet Rock Doc is 5 1/2″ x 8 1/4″, 198 pages, and has a list price of $22.95. It is available at bookstores or can be ordered from WSU Press by calling 800-354-7360 or online at WSU Press is associated with Washington State University located in Pullman, Washington, and publishes scholarly books with a cultural or historical relationship to the Pacific Northwest.

Links to podcasts

Heath Brown coaxes a fascinating interview from Coal Wars author David Bullock on this New Books Network podcast.

Listen to the fascinating story of fishermen and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Red Light to Starboard author Angela Day was interviewed on KCHU’s Coffee Break program.

Get the scoop on some fascinating Seattle history when you watch the TV program based on our book, Eccentric Seattle. Author J. Kingston Pierce hosts.

Listen in as NPR host Ross Reynolds chats with Greenscapes author Joan Hockaday in early 2011 on his KUOW Seattle show.

Kent D. Richards, whose book, Isaac I. Stevens inspired an exhibit at the Washington State Heritage Center, spoke at the opening, along with Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed. The event was aired on TVW.

WSU Press An Election for the Ages author Trova Heffernan and Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed were interviewed on TVW’s author’s hour.

On September 4, 2010, Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk talked about reading in space on the radio program, The Next Chapter. What did he read? The Mapmaker’s Eye, by Jack Nisbet! He said his favorite spot to read was floating next to a window. (Thirsk’s portion starts about halfway through the podcast.)

On December 18, 2009, Shaper of Seattle author William H. Wilson provided additional insight into famed Seattle city engineer, Reginald Heber Thomson, in his lecture at the Seattle Public Library.

For John Charles Olmsted fans, we offer this podcast from Greenscapes author Joan Hockaday‘s talk at the Seattle Public Library on June 3, 2009.

Watch the video of TVW’s June 15, 2009 Author’s Hour, an interview with Finding Chief Kamiakin authors Richard D. Scheuerman and Michael O. Finley.

The 2009 American Library Association Conference presentation by reference librarian Hilary Albert featuring America’s Nuclear Wastelands was taped by C-SPAN2 for BookTV and aired on July 26, 2009. (The portion on America’s Nuclear Wastelands starts at about 16:46.)

Catch Dr. Power’s presentation at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington, on the Pirate TV Website.

On June 1, 2007, Dear Medora author Sydney Stevens was interviewed on the KMUN After Deadline radio program by Matt Winters, editor and publisher of the Chinook Observer. Listen to the podcast.

Catastrophe to Triumph author Richard S. Hobbs and The Mapmakers Eye author Jack Nisbet were interviewed by Megan Sukys on KUOW, Seattles National Public Radio affiliate. Podcasts of her program The Beat are available. Original broadcast dates were February 6, 2007 (listen) and February 14, 2006 (listen).

The Mapmakers Eye author Jack Nisbet, was extensively interviewed for the public television documentary on Pacific Northwest explorer David Thompson. Uncharted Territory: David Thompson in the Intermountain West that has been on the air at KSPS and other PBS stations.

A Bizarre Chapter in American Prison History



PULLMAN, Wash.— The 1970s and 80s saw a cultural shift in prisons across the country, but only one became the archetype of failed reform. That singular institution was the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Reports of shocking incidents—extended lockdowns, riots, bombings, and murders—were splashed across newspapers and television screens nationwide. For the first time, Unusual Punishment: Inside the Walla Walla Prison, 1970–1985, tells the complete story.


Geologist Merges Science with Eyewitness Interviews of Mount St. Helens’ 1980 Disaster


PULLMAN, Wash.— May 18, 2015 marks the 35th anniversary of Earth’s largest terrestrial landslide in historical times—a result of a restless volcano and a uniquely violent eruption. The top of Mount St. Helens plowed into Spirit Lake, throwing water 860 feet above lake level, a great inland tsunami. A ground-hugging hot surge sped across valleys and ridges, killing dozens of people and nearly all other life as it leveled 234 square miles of forest.


New Anthology Yields Long-term Value for the Nez Perce


PULLMAN, Wash.— On September 11, 1805, explorer William Clark made his first entry in an elk skin-bound journal which was to serve him through December 31, 1805:

we Set out at 3 oClock and proceeded on up the Travelers rest Creek, accompanied by the flat head or Tushapaws Indians . . . Encamped at some old Indian Lodges, nothing killed this evening hills on the right high & ruged, the mountains on the left high & Covered with Snow.

Thus did the first Americans enter Nez Perce country…

This is how Encounters with the People: Written and Oral Accounts of Nez Perce Life to 1858, an edited, annotated anthology of unique primary sources related to Nez Perce history, begins. Most of the selected material—Native American oral histories, diary excerpts, military reports, maps, and more—is published for the first time or is found only in obscure sources.


First Full-length Biography of Prolific Northwest Photographer Asahel Curtis


PULLMAN, Wash.— Long overshadowed by his older brother Edward’s fame, Asahel Curtis (1874–1941)  produced some 40,000 images chronicling a broad swath of early 2oth-century life in the Northwest. In Developing the Pacific Northwest: The Life and Work of Asahel Curtis, the first full-length biography of the photographer/booster/mountaineer, scholar William H. Wilson takes an in-depth look at Curtis and corrects some longstanding misconceptions.


How Priest Lake Became a “Cult” Vacation Spot


PULLMAN, Wash.— Wild Place: A History of Priest Lake, Idaho offers the first comprehensive, accurate chronicle of Priest Lake. Author Kris Runberg Smith’s family has had ties to the area since her great-great grandfather, a timber cruiser, arrived in 1897. Yet despite being a location one local newspaper branded “a cult with many vacationists,” no one had properly recorded its history.


Sharing Palouse-region Oral Traditions


PULLMAN, Wash.— Washington State University Press has just published River Song: Naxiyamtáma (Snake River-Palouse) Oral Traditions from Mary Jim, Andrew George, Gordon Fisher, and Emily Peone, a new collection of Native American oral histories. For many generations into the twentieth century, Mary Jim, her family, and their ancestors lived a free and open life on the Columbia Plateau. They journeyed from the Snake River to Badger Mountain to Oregon’s Blue Mountains, interacting and intermarrying within a vast region of the Northwest.

Denied a place on their ancestral lands, the original Snake River-Palouse people were forced to scatter. After most relocated to the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, and Colville reservations, maintaining their cultural identity became increasingly difficult. Still, elders continued to pass down oral histories to their descendants, insisting youngsters listen with rapt attention. Intended as life lessons, these sacred texts contain many levels of meaning and are rich in content, interpretation, and nuance.


Examining Roslyn’s Dramatic Labor History

Photo of a man in a mining car on tracks under a wooden structure

The filming location for the popular TV series Northern Exposure, Roslyn, Washington, might not be as eccentric as its fictional counterpart. But the seemingly sleepy little town does have a dramatic past and lingering bitter sentiments that some residents didn’t want exposed.

With family roots that lead directly to Roslyn, David Bullock, the author of Coal Wars: Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington, spent considerable time there—but all of it was long after a 1934 incident prompted a New Republic writer to dub the town a “little nest of Fascists.” Bullock wanted to understand why, at that moment, the community was such a tinderbox, and he made some surprising discoveries along the way. In the 1930s, members of radical labor movements often opposed each other, yet he unearthed attempts at cooperative efforts between Communists, Socialists, and the Industrial Workers of the World. He also found elements of a David and Goliath story, with fierce local leaders pitted against powerful national interests.

Some Central Washington residents warned Bullock to avoid the topic. Even decades later, they consider the region’s labor history to be controversial and many have intense reactions when interviewed. One source refused to provide a college paper he wrote in the 1970s, asserting individuals within the community could still be hurt by its contents.

Roslyn had always been a coal town, ever since a railway company opened the first mine in 1886. On a normal shift, the miners spent ten or more hours at the workplace. Bullock’s grandfather, an immigrant, was one of many who dressed, prepared lights and equipment, and traveled in and out of the mine shaft on his own time. Some trips took nearly an hour each way.

In the early 1930s, concerned about safety, locals demonstrated at the state capital. Their success prompted additional dreams of better working conditions, fair wages, and a six-hour workday. They expected their national labor union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), to remain strong during contract negotiations. Instead, UMWA leaders aligned with the coal company, setting the stage for the rise of a new local organization, the Western Miners Union of America.

With the United States in the midst of a severe national economic depression, the fledgling group faced opposition from their old union, a powerful railroad empire, and even their own government. The conflict between the Western Miners and the UMWA intensified, leading to murder on a Roslyn street corner. When the killer was acquitted, community outrage rose, and Communist activists and other radical labor groups offered to back the Western Miners.

The Western Miners called for a strike on April 3, 1934, but this time the unions themselves were rivals—dividing families, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and turning residents of Roslyn, Cle Elem, and Ronald against each other. At the picket lines, ordinary wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters pelted cars with rocks, rotten eggs, pine cones, and cow pies. They cursed and shrieked insults as they fought on behalf of their men. As the morning wore on, the taunts and assaults escalated. Officials called in the state police.

David Bullock made a concerted effort to keep his account balanced. He conducted interviews with local residents and reviewed newspapers, court documents, and corporate archives. Capturing the details surrounding a dual union movement in the 1930s American West, his narrative also describes the region’s melting pot of working families and the socio-political impacts of New Deal policies on their lives.

Now that it has been uncovered, perhaps Roslyn’s real history will inspire a new TV show.