How the Pine Hills neighborhood in Albany, New York, changed and grew, as reflected in the history of one house and the lives of its residents.
When you buy an old house, you get much more than a house. In all its quirks, its alterations, in fragments of memory and traces left behind, you get a bundle of small mysteries. Who used to live here? Why did they come here, and where did they go? Whose name is that written on the attic wall? When did that odd little bathroom get shoehorned in there, and what did the room look like before? If you're lucky, one or two of your house's mysteries might unfold into stories. Akum Norder was very lucky.
The History of Here follows Albany, New York's, Pine Hills neighborhood through more than one hundred years of change. At its heart is the story of Norder's 1912 house and the people who built and lived in it. As Norder traced their histories, she came to see the development of her house, her street, and her neighborhood as a piece of Albany's story. In the lives of its residents, their struggles and triumphs, she saw a reflection of twentieth-century America.
Drawing on interviews, city records, newspapers, out-of-print books, and other sources, Norder's narrative makes a case for city neighborhoods: their value, their preservation, and the grassroots involvement that turns a jumble of houses into a community. Funny and thought-provoking, readable and relevant, The History of Here celebrates the sense of place that fuels the new urbanism.
Akum Norder is a writer who lives in Albany, New York. This is her first book.
"…a pleasure to read. The author's ability to shift between historical facts, warm personal details, and wry philosophical asides is both deft and engaging … Norder's story is extremely accessible, full of fun and fascinating facts. " — Coop Scoop
"The character of a place can many times be found in the stories it holds and the people who occupy it. The History of Here demonstrates this notion at the house, neighborhood, and city levels. Ultimately, Norder's foray into homeownership and her understanding of place—in her case, Albany—can be applied to the experience of twentieth-century life in any city. " — Hudson River Valley Review
"Although painstakingly researched, the book reads like a conversation, with Norder's empathy and flashes of dry humor moving it along. " — Albany Times Union
"Akum Norder has contributed to the literature of American life a paean of neighborliness of which Garrison Keillor would be pleased to read, and perhaps E. B. White and even James Agee would take pleasure in this could they look in from the great beyond. Rooted in the keenly seen particular, this history has implications about the organic growth of American cities in general, and what we mean when we talk about 'the good old days. '" — Gregory Maguire
"Akum Norder writes with an authentic voice and a deep sense of place. Her story about her family's house in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood captures the American urban experience. Her prose is clear-eyed yet passionate, with a measure of Jane Jacobs's advocacy. The History of Here is an important addition to the Albany canon. " — Paul Grondahl, author of Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma