The Little Syria of Deep Valley

By Jia Tolentino

The writer Maud Hart Lovelace, who died in 1980, at the age of eighty-seven, is best known for her semi-autobiographical “Betsy-Tacy” children’s-book series—a fizzy, modish, cult-favorite cousin of “Anne of Green Gables” and the “Little House” books, centered on two best friends in the fictional Deep Valley, which Lovelace based on her home town of Mankato, Minnesota. Lovelace, like her character Betsy, was determined, imaginative, and a born writer; she published her first short story when she was eighteen, in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. (Tacy, circumspect and demure, was based on Lovelace’s best friend, Frances Kenney.) The ten “Betsy-Tacy” books span the time from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the First World War. Today, there’s an annual Betsy-Tacy convention and a Betsy-Tacy Society, which has turned Lovelace’s Mankato home into a museum. In times of strife, I sometimes return to my “Betsy-Tacy” books, escaping American political catastrophe for a world of ice-skating parties and Gibson girls. But I recently decided to reread something else by Lovelace: her one stand-alone young-adult book, “Emily of Deep Valley,” published in 1950, in which the shy protagonist of the title becomes Deep Valley’s premier advocate for the Syrian immigrants who live on the outskirts of town.

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Source:: The Little Syria of Deep Valley

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