I live in one of the oldest regions of America. In fact one of its nicknames is America’s first area. Technically the lost colony of Roanoke Island is part of Hampton Roads, the first landing by the Virginia company is just down the street from my house at the creatively named First Landing State Park, Jamestown settlement is up the bay and down the river a little ways, and then there is Williamsburg. All part of this are and all very historic.
But there is other history here. People know some of the modern famous people like Missy Eliot and Pharell Williams but did you know that Flowers in the Attic author VC Andrews was born in Portsmouth and passed away in Virginia Beach or the Sophie’s choice author William Styron was born in Newport News which also happens to be the birthplace of Ella Fitzgerald? If you didn’t don’t feel bad. This area almost takes an effort to hide its history.
If you were to visit Virginia Beach you might not even know about First Landing State Park or its significance. It isn’t publicized that well. The name First Landing might even be a mystery to anyone that doesn’t bother to read up on it themselves. Other than the state park and a smattering of historic buildings that also aren’t mentioned in any travel guides the city’s early American roots are all but ignored.
This is an area forged by automobiles and it embraces that history. It is a place full of shopping centers, strip malls, and high rise hotels rising along the coastline. It isn’t a place for history, art, or literature and still it has given rise to some of the greatest talents this nation has seen.
Earlier this year I bemoaned the fact that I was feeling culturally stifled. I wanted to watch a Shakespeare play or wander through an art museum. Little did I realize that close by so many great minds found inspiration and gave birth to some dark but creative fiction. It is hard to think of this place as a haven of fine literature but the proof is in the pudding as they say.
The tourism committee should really get to work on pushing those facts a little more. I remember VC Andrews being all the rage when I was a young lad. Of course no one knew she was dead and her books being ghost written, but her most famous works were written while she was alive and living here. She is buried in Portsmouth but other than that not a thing. I can’t imagine a person not knowing that Edgar Allen Poe or Babe Ruth were from Baltimore. It is so strange that this area acts ashamed almost of great creative minds like VC Andrews and Ella Fitzgerald.
They say to be the change you want to see in the world, but in order to do that I’d need a lot more money, because right now the change I want to see in this world is a book shop that pays homage to the history of this area or at least has a big proper display.