“A Musical Journey“ by Lucille Cummings Bagley and “My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir“ by Samantha Abeel are heartfelt and well-crafted books that focus on life in the world of show business and the learning disability of dyscalculia. While it may seem that these two subjects might have little in common, both are tales of hope and determination in the face of adversity, and how strength and personal vision can triumph over the most daunting of challenges.
Also, both authors will be making book signing appearances at Horizon Books in downtown Traverse City this week. Bagley will appear there on Friday, November 28 from 12-2 p.m., and Abeel will follow the next day, on Saturday, November 29 from 2-4 p.m. For more information, call Horizon Books at (231) 946-7290.
A Musical Journey by Lucille Cummings Bagley
A Traverse City resident along with Ted, her devoted husband of nearly 50 years, Bagley has become well-known and respected in the community for, among other things, her graciousness as a friend and hostess, and her dedication to the arts. After much prodding from family and friends, she finally decided to document the story of her life, which was a journey filled with music and many professional successes and opportunities.
She and Ted ordered a limited number of books for the first printing, which arrived in stores this past June, but they sold so quickly that a good deal more were made for the second printing, and it appears that a third will happen soon. Bagley says she has been more than a bit surprised by the response to her book, especially since she originally meant it to be more of a historical chronicle for family members. Those who have read it, though, have praised it for being warm, interesting and insightful.
Born and raised on a farm in a small town in Oregon, Bagley demonstrated a passion for music when she was just three-years-old and struggled to reach the keys on the family piano to play the hymns she heard in church. As she grew older, she trained in voice and piano and in time, her talent, determination, good looks, poise and focus all paid off.
As the book recounts, she found performance opportunities with the Portland Symphony Orchestra before moving to work in the Hollywood film industry and then in New York. There, she came into her own as a performer and found fame singing at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, making appearances on the Bell Telephone Hour radio program, and be in demand for classical song recitals, popular music concerts with the likes of Xavier Cugat and principal roles in operas such as Verdi‘s “Aida“ at the New York City Center Opera.
She found fame, but she also found love after meeting Ted, her “best friend and soul mate.“ While “A Musical Journey“ is very much a story of Bagley‘s impressive career, it is also the story of their lifelong relationship, and gives the reader an intimate look into the lives of two people who were clearly destined to be together. More than a recitation of facts of her life, “A Musical Journey“ documents the power of music and its ability to move, to touch and heal. As told by Bagley, it‘s a trip worth taking.
My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir by Samantha Abeel
When Abeel was just 13-years-old, she collaborated with gifted local artist Charles Murphy to create “Reach for the Moon,“ a stunning collection of poetry accompanied by Murphy‘s beautiful and imaginative watercolors. The book won universal critical acclaim and a number of prestigious awards, but the real triumph of the unique work as that it came not just from a young author, but from someone who had been labeled “learning disabled,“ had trouble telling time, counting money, and remembering even the simplest addition and subtraction problems.
Eventually, Abeel‘s learning problems would be diagnosed as dyscalculia, a math-related learning disability, a lifelong condition that affects two to six percent of U.S. elementary school students. But until she, her family and her teachers knew what they were dealing with, the problem affected nearly every aspect of her life, from learning in the classroom to struggling to work her locker combination.
There wasn‘t a day of her life that wasn‘t plagued with fear, tension, anxiety, frustration and even panic. She was only 13, and she saw the prospects for her own life as bleak at best. But there was a gift in Abeel‘s life that would prove to be stronger than her affliction, and that was her ability to work with words, and transform the tumult that surrounded her into eloquent expressions of prose. As her talent for writing was discovered and nurtured, paving the way for “Reach for the Moon,“ a new ray of hope began to break through the dark shadows cast by dyscalculia. As everyone began to grasp that learning disabilities and creative talent could exist in the same individual, Abeel embarked on a journey of self-discovery, esteem, confidence and accomplishment.
“My Thirteenth Winter“ is a candid and extremely moving of how her life was affected by her learning disability before and after she was diagnosed, and the way it impacted those around her. Even with the discovery of her diagnosis, there were more obstacles to overcome, and Abeel recounts them in a way that shows her command of the written word. In particular, the passages of the book dealing with her high school and college years are extremely well-written. Her sharp observations shirk the need for pity and reflect an introspective sense of maturity that belies her (still) young years. It is evident that Abeel has lived through and dealt with issues that most of her peers have never had to face, but she has used them to weave a rich tapestry of hope with this book. It is a must-read for anyone concerned with learning disabilities, but it also speaks just as strongly to anyone dealing with a challenge or facing an obstacle of any sort.