John Busbee, Culture Buzz, Foreword for “Leora’s Dexter Stories”

Foreword by John Busbee

The sharing of personal histories introduces us to new people, places and times. Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years delivers a compelling narrative that stirs the embers slumbering within our memory’s hearth, enflaming a special connection between two histories – the author’s and ours. This magical blending of two worlds creates a journey both familiar and fresh for the reader. Joy Neal Kidney gives us an exceptional hybrid story of her family’s history as it unfolded during a challenging time in American history.

Leora Wilson’s family is tested during our country’s most challenging times in the 20th century: The Great Depression. Through their tenacity and caring for each other, Leora’s life is steeped in a survivalism grit, as so many other American families also endured. Kidney anchors her grandmother’s stories through oral and written remembrances of her own mother, Leora’s daughter, Doris, and her uncle, Delbert. Each chapter in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years, adds to a rich, personal understanding of a time when more than a third of America suffered under harsh conditions, both economically and environmentally. Through these trials and tribulations shines this family’s unquenchable hopes and dreams, conveyed with gratitude, grace and perseverance. Just as Leora used scraps of cloth to patch bib overalls, bed clothes and dresses, Kidney lovingly stitches together a revealing historical patchwork of images, oral history, letters, news stories and more into an immensely satisfying immersion into a time that continues to resonate today.

With enough glimpses into the reality of these difficult times, Kidney provides a ground zero impact of how such economic challenges affected her Iowa ancestors. We get to know the Wilson family, its relatives of that era, friends and community members. Losses and struggles are intertwined with love and aspirations, in no small part by Leora Wilson’s determined vision for her definitions of success: her children graduating from high school and a warm, loving home wherever their family totem, the velvet “Home Sweet Home” picture, hangs. To share this journey with the Wilsons is to better understand The Great Depression, an Iowa family surviving those tempestuous times, and perhaps better understand our own family history.

Snuggle into a favorite chair with a warm cup of tea and drift into Leora’s stories as Joy lovingly channels those remembrances into a fulfilling book. Kidney feeds the flames of family, home and setting. We receive its comfort. To experience history on such a personal level feeds our souls, and we find ourselves better prepared for the now and future.

— John Busbee, The Culture Buzz, Iowa Governor’s Award for Partnership & Collaboration in the Arts, Iowa History Award for “Last Measure of Full Devotion.” He is a writer, director, musician, actor, radio host (Culture Buzz, KFMG-FM), has a weekly newsletter about anything cultural, writes for Iowa History Journal, and has a monthly column in Cityview.

The Culture Buzz website.

He’s also the bass in the GQ (Gospel Quintet)! That’s a short clip. Here’s a concert version.

I’m thankful to John for also writing a review of Leora’s Dexter Stories for the new Nov./Dec. 2021 issue of Iowa History Journal.


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