Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Mary Coin: An iconic photo inspires a novel

Posted on: June 12, 2013

MigrantMother12883Most of us are familiar with Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph.   The symbolic photo correctly titled of Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California is the inspiration for Mary Coin.  (Marissa Silver. Blue Rider Press, NY, 2013.)

 Silver weaves together the a fictionalized story of  Mary Coin (Thompson),  Vera Dare, a photographer modeled after Lange, and Walker Dodge, a contemporary cultural history professor in California. Dodge challenges his students to “see” photos and look beneath the layers.  The fictional characters are connected when Dodge  discovers a copy of the photo after his father’s death.

Silver’s story moves back and forth between the depression era and the present, creating a vivid and somber picture of life for migrant workers.    It is a memorable novel, worth more than 1000 words.

Lange’s photos are accessible through the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.   An overview of the Migrant mother and other photos Lange took at theTent same time has a brief account of Lange’s experience on that day.

Lange’s photography was done for the Farm Security Administration.   Many of her photos, along with others are easily accessible in Depression Era to World War II ~ FSA/OWI ~ Photographs ~ 1935-1945 an American Memory Collection of over 160,000 items and 1600 color photographs.   The Teachers Page has  related  teacher and classroom ready resources.

A Dorothea Lange archive collection is available through the Oakland Museum of California

Learn more about  challenging your students to see photos and other ideas for using primary sources in your classroom:
Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources

Above: Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven hungry children.
Mother aged thirty-two. Father is native Californian. Nipomo, California

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

%d bloggers like this: