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Remarks:

This is came out in 1959, one of the first recorded soul songs. The lyrics, though, were controversial. The video above is from “The Ed Sullivan Show” on December 3rd 1967 and shows Billy Preston. Some of the lyrics have been changed.

Raoul Peck, in “I Am Not Your Negro” (2017), juxtaposed this song with Doris Day’s “Should I Surrender?” (1961) while quoting James Baldwin:

“In this country, for a dangerously long time, there have been two levels of experience. One, to put it cruelly, can be summed up in the images of Gary Cooper and Doris Day, two of the most grotesque appeals to innocence the world has ever seen. And the other, subterranean, indispensable, and denied, can be summed up, let us say, in the tone and face of Ray Charles. And there has never been any genuine confrontation between these two levels of experience.”

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Lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Hey mama, don’t you treat me wrong
Come and love your daddy all night long
Alright now, hey hey, alright

See the girl with the diamond ring
She knows how to shake that thing
Alright now now now, hey hey, hey hey

Tell your mama, tell your pa
I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas
Oh yes, ma’am, you don’t do right, don’t do right
[Bridge]
When you see me in misery
Come on, baby, see about me
Now yeah, alright, alright, ah, play it, boy

[Instrumental break]

[Bridge]
When you see me in misery
Come on, baby, see about me
Now yeah, hey hey, alright

[Verse 2]
See the girl with the red dress on
She can do the Birdland all night long
Yeah yeah, what’d I say, alright

[Chorus]
Well, tell me what’d I say, yeah
Tell me what’d I say right now
Tell me what’d I say
Tell me what’d I say right now
Tell me what’d I say
Tell me what’d I say, yeah

[Post-Chorus]
And I wanna know
Baby, I wanna know right now
And-a I wanna know
And I wanna know right now, yeah
And-a I wanna know
Said I wanna know, yeah

 

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022) has passed away at age 89. She is a Black American actress famous for playing Lieutenant Uhura on “Star Trek” on US television, from 1966 to 1969. She walked in beauty, like the night. Martin Luther King, Jr put it best when he urged her not to quit the show:

“Don’t you know you have the first non-stereotypical role in television? … For the first time the world will see us as we should be seen – people of quality in the future. You created a role with dignity and beauty and grace and intelligence. You’re not just a role model for our children, but for people who don’t look like us to see us for the first time as equals, as intelligent people – as we should be.”

Requiescat in pace.

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Remarks:

This came out in 1974 going to #20 on the US R&B chart. I last heard this song in the 1970s! In the US they are much better known for “So Much in Love” (1963). In the UK it is for “Ms Grace” (1974).

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Lyrics:

You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker, yes sir
You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker
You little trustmaker

You, you give me love, and all of the things that I will want forever
Yes you sweep away pain, giving me joy I know will last forever

You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker
Yes sir
You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker
You little trustmaker
Girl remember, you’re my life, dream, my world
You’re all I want forever
And lovin, warm and tender, I am glad, for all that I can count on

You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker, yes sir
You little trustmaker yes sir, you’re no heart-breaker
You little trustmaker

Yes sir, yes sir
You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker, yes sir, yes sir
You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker, yes sir, yes sir
You little trustmaker, you’re no heart-breaker, yes sir, yes sir

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Remarks:

This song went to #9 on the US pop chart in 1983. The video, beloved by MTV, so reminds me of being stuck in a nowhere place with everyone in your business telling you how to live your life. It helps that, unlike “Leave It to Beaver”, it was not filmed on a Hollywood backlot with good road repair. The Wikipedia, though, says it is about “cyclical loss and new beginnings” –  loss of virginity in the video, the loss of singer Martha Davis’s parents in real life. As she told Beyond Race magazine:

“I believe the song to be about irrevocable change, the loss of innocence, the melancholy associated with not being able to go home again. When I was still living in Berkeley, in my early 20s, I remember sitting in the back yard of the little house I bought after my parents died. It was the end of summer. From down the street, I heard the sound of the ice cream truck with its haunting little song. As I lay there, the first cold wind of autumn started to blow and I knew I would not see the truck again that year, and that summer was over. That incident resonated with me and I think the bells from that truck became the concept for repeating melodic line that runs through ‘Suddenly.'”

Despite its title it has nothing to do with the Tennessee Williams play of the same name.

The book in the video: “Building Passion” (1983) by Jane Bierce, a Harlequin romance novel.

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Lyrics:

It happened one summer
It happened one time
It happened forever
For a short time
A place for a moment
An end to a dream
Forever I loved you
Forever it seemed

One summer never ends
One summer never began
It keeps me standing still
It takes all my will
And then suddenly
Last summer

Sometimes I never leave
But sometimes I would
Sometimes I stay too long
Sometimes I would
Sometimes it frightens me
Sometimes it would
Sometimes I’m all alone
And wish that I could

One summer never ends
One summer never begins
It keeps me standing still
It takes all my will
And then suddenly
Last summer
And then suddenly
Last summer

One summer never ends
One summer never begins
It keeps me standing still
It takes all my will
And then suddenly
Last summer
And then suddenly
Last summer
Until suddenly
Last summer

And then suddenly
Last summer
Until suddenly
Last summer

Source: AZ Lyrics, Songfacts, Wikipedia.

 

Remarks:

Meli’sa Morgan lives and breathes! And still as good as ever. I remember her from the 1980s. This song came out this year, 2022, but as far as I know it has not (yet) charted.

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Lyrics:

From the day you told me
You only had a little time
I usually started feeling lonely
The thought never crossed my mind
I would, I would, I would be without you

Now my tears are rolling down my eyes
Happiness is sadness in disguise
I can’t imagine being on this earth
Without, without, without, without you

It hurts so bad
Can’t sleep, can’t breathe
Knowing you will not be here with me
Yeah, oh
It hurts so bad
Can’t sleep, can’t breathe
Knowing you will not be here with me
I never thought

Never thought I’d be here
Without you, you are my
Footprints of an angel
You’ll always be
You’ll be by my side
Till the day I die, touch the sky
Footprints of an angel, oh

And the first time I saw you
My heart was no longer mine
I knew that I simply adored you
A light that would always shine
Inside, inside, inside inside me

Never reason, never fade away
Nothing lasts forever and a day
And nothing could take him away
And I, and I always will love you

And now it hurts so bad
Can’t sleep, can’t breathe
Knowing you will not be here with me
Know you won’t be here with me, baby
It hurts so bad
Can’t sleep, can’t breathe
Knowing you will not be here with me
I never thought

Never thought I’d be here
Without you, you are my
Footprints of an angel
You’re my footprints of an angel
You’ll be by my side
Till the day I die, touch the sky
Footprints of an angel
How am I gonna live without you?

Never thought I’d be here
Without you, you are my
Footprints of an angel
You are my
You’ll be by my side
Till the day I die, touch the sky
Footprints of an angel

How am I gonna live without you baby?
You’ll always be my angel
Walk beside me
Talk beside me, always be with me
You are, you are, you are, you are, ooh

Source: AZLyrics.

Remarks:

This was her first #1 hit in the US – it went to #1 in 1973 on both the pop and R&B charts. It is a cover of a song by Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston’s gospel-singing mother. The song was written by Jim Weatherly inspired by Farrah Fawcett taking the midnght plane from LA to Houston, Texas. Fawcett was hardly as defeatist as Weatherly: she became famous nationwide three years later as one of the original Charlie’s Angels.

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Lyrics:

L.A. proved too much for the man
(Too much for the man, he couldn’t make it)
So he’s leaving a life he’s come to know, ooh
(He said he’s going)
He said he’s going back to find
(Going back to find)
Ooh, what’s left of his world
The world he left behind not so long ago

He’s leaving
(Leaving)
On that midnight train to Georgia, yeah
(Leaving on the midnight train)
Said he’s going back
(Going back to find)
To a simpler place and time, oh yes he is
(Whenever he takes that ride, guess who’s gonna be right by his side)
I’ll be with him
(I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(Leaving on a midnight train to Georgia, woo woo)
I’d rather live in his world
(Live in his world)
Than live without him in mine
(Her world is his, his and hers alone)

He kept dreaming
(Dreaming)
Ooh, that some day he’d be a star
(A superstar, but he didn’t get far)
But he sure found out the hard way
That dreams don’t always come true, oh no, uh uh
(Dreams don’t always come true, uh uh, no, uh uh)
So he pawned down his hopes
(Woo, woo, woo-woo)
And even sold his old car
(Woo, woo, woo-woo)
Bought a one way ticket back to the life he once knew
Oh yes he did, he said he would

Oh-oh, he’s leaving
(Leaving)
On that midnight train to Georgia, yeah
(Leaving on a midnight train)
Said he’s going back to find, ooh
(Going back to find)
A simpler place and time, ooh, yeah
(Whenever he takes that ride, guess who’s gonna be right by his side)
I’m gonna be with him
(I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(Leaving on a midnight train to Georgia, woo woo)
I’d rather live in his world
(Live in his world)
Than live without him in mine
(Her world is his, his and hers alone)

Ooh, he’s leaving
(Leaving)
On the midnight train to Georgia, yeah, ooh y’all
(Leaving on the midnight train)
Said he’s going back to find
(Going back to find)
Ooh, a simpler place and time, ooh y’all, uh-huh
(Whenever he takes that ride, guess who’s gonna be right by his side)
I’ve got to be with him
(I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(Leaving on a midnight train to Georgia, woo woo)
I’d rather live in his world
(Live in his world)
Than live without him in mine
(Her world is his, his and hers alone)

For love, gonna board the midnight train to ride
For love, gonna board, gotta board the midnight train to go
For love, gonna board, uh huh, the midnight train to go
My world, his world, our world, mine and his alone
My world, his world, our world, mine and his alone
I got to go
I got to go
I got to go, hey
I got to go
I got to go
My world, his world, my man, his girl
I got to go
I got to go, oh
I got to go
My world, his world, our world, his girl

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Mozart: Requiem

Remarks:

This came out in 1792, a year after his death. It did not chart, but it is easily my favourite piece of his music. It is sung in Latin because back then the Cathollic Mass was sung in Latin. It still is in some places, a practice that Pope Francis is trying to make even rarer than it already is.

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Lyrics: the  video has both the Latin lyrics and an English translation.

Jinsang: Flow On

Remarks:

I have become addicted to this song. It came out in 2017. According to last.fm, Jinsang of California is “a low-profile beatmaker who specializes in idyllic, slightly dazed left-field hip-hop tracks with elements sourced from dusty soul and jazz recordings.”  In this case the dusty soul music sounds to me like it comes from “Float On” (1977) by The Floaters  and “Save Room” (2006) by John Legend. But according to WhoSampled.com, it is actually “Float On”  (1978), a cover of The Floaters’s song by the Most Requested Rhythm Band, and a rap song, “New York” (2005) by AZ featuring Ghostface Killah and Raekwon (2005), which in turn samples at least Public Enemy. To  MRRB’s credit, they add a horn, which for me is what makes this song.

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The Floaters: Float On

Remarks:

This was the #1 song on the US R&B chart for six weeks in 1977. Yet further proof that music has since gone down hilll. Even in 1977 the Floaters were already becoming something of a hold-over as Black music was turning beige.

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Lyrics:

Aquarius, Libra, Leo, Cancer
Ralph, Charles, Paul, Larry

Float, float on
Float on, float on
Float, float, float on
Float on, float on

Float, float on
Float on, float on
Float, float, float on
Float on, float on
Float, float on
Float on, float on
Float, float, float on
Float on, float on

Aquarius, Libra, Leo, Cancer
Ralph, Charles, Paul, Larry

Aquarius and my name is Ralph
Now I like a woman who loves her freedom
And I like a woman who can hold her own
And if you fit that description, baby, come with me

Take my hand
Come with me, baby, to Love Land
Let me show you how sweet it could be
Sharing love with me, I want you to

Float, float on (come on, come on, come on)
Float on, float on
Float, float, float on
Float on, float on (float on)

Libra and my name is Charles
Now I like a woman that’s quiet
A woman who carries herself like Miss Universe
A woman who would take me in her arms
And she would say, Charles, yeah
And if you fit that description
This is for you especially

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Billy Joel: Allentown

Remarks:

This came out in 1982. MTV put it in heavy rotation, along with other videos Russell Mulcahy directed (“Rio” by  Duran Duran, “True” by Spandau Ballet, etc). It went to #17 in the US. It did not chart in the UK.

In 1987 Joel explained the song to his Russian fans:

“This song is about young people living in the Northeast of America. Their lives are miserable because the steel factories are closing down. They desperately want to leave… but they stay because they were brought up to believe that things were going to get better. Maybe that sounds familiar.”

See also:

Lyrics:

Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line
Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers in the USO
Asked them to dance
Danced with them slow
And we’re living here in Allentown

But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to stay

Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron and coke
And chromium steel
And we’re waiting here in Allentown

But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face

Well I’m living here in Allentown
And it’s hard to keep a good man down
But I won’t be getting up today

And it’s getting very hard to stay
And we’re living here in Allentown

Source:  AZ Lyrics.

Gesmis: Always Highhh

Remarks:

This song counts as jazzhop or lofi hip-hop. I heard it at an all-night coffee shop on YouTube.  It came out in 2020, done by Gesmis, who is from Kutaisi, Georgia. In Greek legend Kutaisi was at the eastern end of the world, the city of King Aeëtes of Colchis, possessor of the Golden Fleece. It stood on the Phasis River (now called the Rioni), the border between Europe and Asia in the geography of Anaximander (-500s) and Herodotus (-400s). In the geography of the Wikipedia (2022) it is squarely in Asia as lies south of the Caucasus Mountains. So the song also counts as Asian.

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The Mythic Past

The Mythic Past, according to Jason Stanley in “How Fascism Works” (2018), is a fascist technique of control. Combined with fascist propaganda and anti-intellectualism, it creates a state of unreality in which fake news and conspiracy theories drive out reasoned debate.

George Orwell in “1984”:

“‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

Practitioners:

  • early 1900s: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, neo-Confederates (all those statues);
  • early 2000s: The Daily Stormer; the right wing in the US, France, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, India, Burma, etc.

Not mere sanitization: As reported on this blog, countries like Japan and the US love to sanitize their ugly past when it is taught at high school. The Mythic Past does that too, but it goes way beyond:

Red flags: Thanks to the logic of fascist power, the Mythic Past tends to have these features regardless of the actual facts of history:

  • it is glorious: the country was strong and ruled others, everyone practised traditional values and gender roles, and “we” were on top, whatever we (race, religion, and/or culture) the fascist leaders say they champion. It was all ended by globalism, cosmopolitan elites, and respect for “universal values” like equality. Or by out-group minorities gaining too much power. Either way it fatally weakened the nation.
  • strong, happy patriarchal families: when men were men and women were women! Men bravely fought in wars, women knew their place and were devoted mothers. Families were not falling apart like they are now as people abandon traditional gender roles. Fascist leaders need to glorify strong patriarchal families – where whatever the father says goes – to make their own hierarchy and authoritarianism seem right and good. What is the Dear Leader, after all, but the father of the nation?
  • civilization and conquest: in the Mythic Past the country ruled or conquered others, furthered or defended civilization. Because fascist leaders themselves are bent on doing the same sort of thing (imperialism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc). Therefore:
  • exceptionalism: Stanley: “If one can convince a population that they are rightfully exceptional, that they are destined by nature or religious fate to rule other populations, one has already convinced them of a monstruous lie.”
  • the ugly past downplayed, denied or censored: the country was ethnically pure and good. It has an amazingly unblemished record – despite its love of military solutions and unchecked power.
  • liberals say the Mythic Past is untrue. And therefore not a good grounding for government policy. But, as Stanley notes: “It is typical for fascist politicians to represent a country’s actual history in conspiratorial  terms as a narrative concocted by liberal elites and cosmopolitans to victimize the people of the true ‘nation’.”

The Mythic Past is untrue – thus the word “mythic” – because it has little regard for facts and every regard for supporting fascist policies. Fascists imagine their own designs for the future as a glorious age in the past. The point of history is not to learn from it but use it to concoct a version for poltical gain.

The Mythic Past is always about the present.

Abagond, 2022.

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582

Chinese Americans: the 1800s

Chinese Americans, Sierra County, California, circa 1894. Via A Chinese American Historian By Chance.

The Chinese have been in America since at least the 1600s, back when California was a way station for the Manila galleons crossing the Pacific. They began to arrive in numbers from 1848 to 1882, from the California Gold Rush to the Chinese Exclusion Act. They were part of a Chinese diaspora in which millions fled the dying decades of the old, corrupt Qing dynasty in China. They went to South East Asia, Australia, the Pacific, the Americas, and South Africa. This post is just about the US bit.

Snapshot:

  • Location: mostly the West Coast.
  • Population: over 100,000 by 1880, about 95% male in 1900. Most came from Toishan (aka Taishan, fka Sunning) County in Guangdong province in the south of China. Very few Chinese Americans were then ABCs – American Born Chinese.
  • Major cities: Chinatown in San Francisco, California.
  • Language: Cantonese (not Mandarin) Chinese. Most could not speak English!
  • Religion: Confucianism, ancestor worship, Buddhism, Taoism. Fewer than 20% were Christian – mostly those who had been converted in China by Protestant missionaries.
  • Government: Were not allowed to become citizens and vote before 1898 (and then only if US-born). They would even lose the right to testify in court or make bail. But they could still sometimes effect change through protest and court cases.
  • Economy: Chinese-owned businesses (restaurants, laundries, grocery stores, contractors), contract labour (coolies), prostitution, etc. Much of the money was sent back to China, where the dollar went farther and most of their families still lived – US immigration policy did not let most Chinese men bring over their wives.

Timeline:

  • 1834: Afong Moy becomes the first recorded Chinese woman to arrive in the US. Chinese sailors were already a common sight in New York. She became a museum exhibit and later a P.T. Barnum sideshow.
  • 1847: British banks cut off funding to warehouses along the Pearl River in Guangdong province. Trade within the province comes to almost a complete stop, throwing 100,000 out of work.
  • 1848: Gold Mountain – what the Chinese call California after gold was discovered there. Some struck it rich, but most drifted back to San Francisco where many opened restaurants and laundries. White men considered cooking and laundry women’s work – but neglected to bring their women. That left an opening for Chinese men to make a living. By 1920 nearly half of Chinese workers worked in a restaurant or laundry.
  • 1850-64: Taiping Rebellion in China leaves over 20 million dead.
  • 1863-69: The Transcontinental Railroad built. The part from California to Utah was built by a workforce that was over 90% Chinese. Their experience in China with explosives and building things into the sides of mountains was invaluable.
  • 1882: Chinese Exclusion Act – nearly all Chinese immigration is shut off.
  • 1885: Tape v Hurley – California Supreme Court rules that the state has to provide a public education for children of the Mongolian race, not just those of the white, Negro, and Indian races. But schools could still be racially segregated.
  • 1885: Rocky Springs massacre in Wyoming.
  • 1887: Snake River massacre in Hell’s Canyon, Oregon.
  • 1892: Geary Act: Chinese Americans have to carry ID or risk deportation. Cannot testify in court or make bail.
  • 1898US v Wong Kim Ark – US Supreme Court extends birthright citizenship of the 14th Amendment to Chinese Americans.

– Abagond, 2022.

Sources: mainly “The Chinese in America” (2003) by Iris Chang.

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552

 

Remarks:

This came out in 2018, hitting the top ten in China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and their native South Korea. It is currently the most watched K-pop song on YouTube with 1.8 billion views as of May 29th 2022. That means there are still people alive today who have never seen it. Some of them even have Internet service. Blackpink (블랙핑크) has six videos with over a billion views. Taylor Swift, to compare, has five, Beyonce has one, “Halo” (2009). Of course, this song pales before “Baby Shark” (2016), with 10 billion views at last count.

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe is the book that, more than any other, turned White opinion in the northern US against slavery, tearing the country apart in the American Civil War (1861-65). Stowe did this by packaging the facts about slavery into a tear-jerker Victorian novel aimed squarely at White women, mothers in particular. And this at a time when it was common for even White women to lose a child – not to the auction block, but to an early death.

Stereotypes: The book spawned two stereotypes about Black people:

  • Uncle Toms and
  • piccaninnies

and reinforced others.

But this seems to be more the work of the many theatrical adaptations that followed than of the book itself. Stowe was racist, about both “negroes” (always lower-case) and “Anglo-Saxons” (always upper), and parts of the book seem like a minstrel show, but to her great credit she humanized Black people for a large White audience better than anyone else at the time.

Uncle Tom: People who have read the book say that Uncle Tom was not an Uncle Tom, that he was the hero of the book! This is true. While he was a pious, obedient slave who never bad-mouthed his masters no matter how cruel they were, he gave his life rather than betray two runaway slaves. Black people in White media are often self-sacrificing for the greater good of White people – Sidney Poitier springs to mind – but this time it was for the good of fellow Black people! What a relief! As it turned out, all along Uncle Tom was serving not White people but Christ. The irony is that he took Ephesians 6:5 seriously, the very verse of the Bible that slaveholders most loved to quote:

“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”

Stowe never lets you forget that he was a way better Christian than any of his masters.

Use of dialect: Uncle Tom seems to speak in minstrelese – except when quoting Scripture, singing a hymn or giving a stirring speech. Then he lapses into Standard English. Stowe did have Black servants, but Whites got their picture of Blacks mainly from minstrel shows, just like today they mainly get it from television. The incessant minstrelese made the early parts of the book hard for me to stomach. Even the Quaker English in the book seemed fake, especially when compared to “Moby Dick” (1851). Though, to be fair, at least one (White) linguist, Allison Burkette, says Stowe’s use of dialect was accurate.

Based on true events: Everything that takes place in the book is based on something that took place in real life. Which is why nearly all of it takes place in Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati where Stowe lived from 1832 to 1850) and Lousiana (where her brother lived). Stowe did not want to be accused of exaggeration. Uncle Tom himself is believed to have been inspired by Josiah Henson, whose autobiography came out in 1849, just before she began writing.

– Abagond, 2022.

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