Bodemer, Brett. Madrona: A Micro-Geography of the 1960s and 1970s. Brett Bodemer, 2021. https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/lib_fac/133/
Drawing on personal memory, detailed mapping, and archival research, this memoir explores the lived experience of growing up in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood in the 1960s and early 1970s. A neighborhood historically characterized as both integrated and segregated, this book grapples directly with the truth of both statements. The author’s childhood was spent on a street where neighbors across the street were nearly all White, while neighbors astride the alley behind were nearly all Black. The lines of friendship and community interaction, however, were not so neatly defined, and changed markedly over time.
To avoid a mere rehearsal of well-entrenched memories, the author deliberately and minutely informed this exploration of his personal past by creating detailed spreadsheets, sketches, and maps, tracking phenomena such as friends, routes, and violent incidents by year and place. Supplementing these self-generated materials with the reading of official reports, Census Data, archival materials, and generalized secondary sources, the author ruminated extensively on the confluence and contradictions of these materials with his lived experience. Considerable time was spent peeling away ready-to-hand memories in order to see more layers of what was not easily remembered, allowing the unnoticed, now noticed, to generate a more complete experience of experience.
Though billed as a micro-geography, this book unavoidably addresses many macro phenomena: redlining, restrictive covenants, the tension between a gradualist civil rights modality and radical Black Power, and farther back, the Olmsted vision for restorative green parks and vistas, and the formative grafting onto Seattle’s topography of elite New England cultural values. As the author’s White parents were involved with organizations such as Model Cities, the Urban League, and the Black Panthers, the book provides a unique perspective on changes in the civil rights movement, as well as a child’s window on experiences in schools where desegregation efforts were now on and now off again. Perhaps most importantly, the memoir’s tentative definitions of the word ‘neighborhood’ point to the puzzling fact that though we all grow up in neighborhoods, most of us are hard-pressed to say what a neighborhood actually is.
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© 2021 Author
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License Details: Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0