N is for Nan

Nan was my aunt, my Dad’s sister. She lived in San Diego, which was very convenient for family vacations. Aunt Nan also was a major influence in my reading life.

If you met my aunt, she would insist that you also call her Aunt Nan. She was everyone’s aunt. Last week I bought a book called Aunting: Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life. I saw the book advertised and suggested that we might want to carry it at the bookshop where I work. My manager got it in. When I saw the book and read the opening sentence of the preface, I knew I had to buy it. Here is the hook:

“Whenever we tell people that we research aunts, their eyes light up and they inevitably launch into stories about their favorite, most eccentric, or most nurturing aunts.”

Awesome opener. In my AFam, I was blessed with loads of aunts and even a great-aunt or two. They all have influenced me in some way. I dedicated my thesis to three of my aunts, my Aunt Nan and two of her aunts (making them my great-aunts) Mary Eleanor McGarvah and Grace Edna McAllister. I knew Aunt Nell (Mary Eleanor in company), but never met Aunt Grace. Why dedicate my thesis to these women? Well my thesis was about teaching the Bible. All three of these aunts did that in various ways. Aunt Nan also helped me realize that loving books and reading was not a bad thing, and showed me one version of what embracing that passion might look like. Aunt Nell was a pioneer in a cross-disciplinary field (Nurse Attorneys), a published author of technical work, and an inspiration for finishing my doctorate as she finished law school at 43. Aunt Grace was also a published author. She published 2 books on women of the Bible, something I’ve done a little work on.

Aunt Nan often recommended books to me. I still look for some of her favourite authors when I lurk in used book stores. Oh, and guess who taught me the value of a used book store? Aunt Nan. I blame her entirely for my habit of double stacking books in bookcases. She used to triple stack books. My dad thought it might be prudent to anchor her bookcases to the wall as the levels of stacking increased.

When Let Her Speak for Herself (that book I co-edited on women in Genesis) was published in the fall of 2006, I sent Aunt Nan a comp copy immediately. She read the chapter on Hagar and phoned me to tell me how great it was. The sad part is she never got to finish the book as she died in October 2006. I told her friends to share her copy of the book as they all were lined up to borrow it. I’m glad Aunt Nan got to read some of the book — and that she found it “So INTERESTING” that she called me to tell me so.



Filed under What to Read Next

3 responses to “Nan

  1. Everyone needs an Aunt Nan methinks! Also, I wondered why you got that book, now I know why.

  2. Barbara Cordell Carithers

    I must be a relative of yours, My Mother was Eleanor McGarvah Cordell. She was named after Aunt Nell. She was also The Executor of her estate. I was looking for some of my cousins on facebook, and stumbled on photos of My grandfather Joseph McGarvah and his family in front of the house on Cedarhurst. These were photos on Flickr, posted by Scott Weir. I think I saw your name on one of his posts.
    Anyways, I was trying to see the connection and was looking in a geneology book my Uncle Harold Powell wrote. To see connections with him, and found out that Aunt Grace wrote 2 books Called “God Portrays Women” and “God Portrays More Women.” Then somehow I even found you.
    Very cool. I am look forward to looking at your blog.
    I just got a phone call & have to go. More later.

    • Yeah, we are in the genealogy book. Your mom and my dad, Bill, are first cousins. I’m Elsie McGarvah Weir’s granddaughter, and Scott is my brother. I remember meeting your mother at various family functions.

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