Since all of our Book Club members live in the environs of Buffalo, New York, it was inevitable that we would one day choose Buffalo Gal by Laura Pedersen as our monthly choice.
This particular choice is a memoir of the author who was raised in a suburb of Buffalo; it is also a detailed history of events surrounding the city of Buffalo as well as the entire nation.
One wonders how this young lady survived the unconventional upbringing that she describes with such aplomb to an audience that can hardly relate to the strange episodes which pour out so easily from the author, without regret or recrimination.
Despite being a child of divorce which was ongoing and finalized by the time she was sixteen years old, Laura Pedersen, according to her bio, was the youngest columnist ever to be hired by The New York Times as well as the youngest person to have a seat on the American Stock Exchange. In addition to Buffalo Gal, she has penned another six fiction pieces as well as Play Money, a non-fiction explanation of her experiences at the stock exchange at the time of the crash of 1987.
This all occurred despite the fact that Laura had been diagnosed in elementary school as a slow learner with serious mental issues. Another awesome revelation is the amount of research that was necessary for Laura to provide the narration of historical events which occurred simultaneously with the chronology of her personal life story.
We get a close look at Buffalo snowstorms and their effect on citizens’ reactions which gave rise to naming Buffalo The City of Good Neighbors. Laura’s use of similes and metaphors is incomparable as she gives us a wild ride through her chronicling of:
Her memories of the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, RFK, and Malcolm X during the 1960’s.
The Women’s Movement sparked by the publication in 1963 of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
The architecture of Buffalo, which is still considered unique, recalling the names of Louis Sullivan, H. H. Richardson, Stanford White, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Good Humor Man, the Fuller Brush man, the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner man, and the Encyclopedia salesmam, who were all a familiar sight on the Buffalo landscape in mid-twentieth century.
The Attica prison riots which made national news in 1971.
Buffalo’s Michael Bennett, who wrote and choreographed the highly successful musical Chorus Line, and is known almost as much for saying “suicide in Buffalo is redundant.”
Love Canal, which is an area where Hooker Chemical in Niagara Falls dumped tons of toxic chemical waste which polluted the working-class suburb and its accompanying elementary school, causing illness and death to many of its residents during the 1970’s.
The Battle of the Sexes in 1973, which brought together Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in a tennis match between the sexes to highlight the fact that female tennis players were paid less than male tennis players. Billie Jean won the match and brought about change in this sport as well as in other female sports.
How did she do it? How did Laura Pedersen research or commit to memory so many facts and figures about events that impacted herself and residents of Buffalo and its suburbs. Perhaps only Buffalonians will be captured by this magnificent picture of life in that fair city. I suspect, though, that her life will resonate with many, many others who were influenced in the same way that Laura Pedersen was – in both her unique personal life and in the events that occurred as she brought herself out of the chasm of inattention and negligence to which she was assigned.
Buffalo Gal by Laura Pederson (2008)