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Books Unbound – ‘Hospital Sketches’ by Louisa May Alcott, Conclusion


Illness cuts short Nurse Periwinkle’s service for the Union Army as Hospital Sketches concludes. In the last chapters of her thinly fictionalized memoir, during her convalescence in Washington, D.C., Louisa May Alcott offers observations of the pageantry and celebrations surrounding the New Year of 1863 and the Emancipation Proclamation. Although Alcott was a self-described “fanatic” abolitionist, the racist imagery when she describes the people she calls her “colored brothers and sisters” is likely to appall listeners today. Doug Storm, who announces for the series, talks with Indiana University Provost Professor Christoph Irmscher on racism among white Northern abolitionists.

Sarah Torbeck has been our reader for the series (parts one, two and three). Heather Perry hosts.

Series special music comes from the Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin and Horn, Op. 40 (1865) of Johannes Brahms, as performed at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014. Additional music for this episode comes from “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” in an arrangement for piano trio by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor performed by the Coleridge Ensemble, from the album Coleridge-Taylor: Chamber Music (Afka, 1999). Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912) was an English composer whose father was descended from African slaves freed by the British following the American Revolution. The composer toured the United States, and was inspired by African and African-American music. “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” is a spiritual thought to come from the era of slavery, though perhaps not written down till the 1870s. Break music comes from “We Are Coming Father Abraham” performed by the 97th Regimental String Band. Sound effects from Freesound.org. Theme music by The Impossible Shapes.

Hospital Sketches is produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Doug Storm and Heather Perry, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe and Sarah Torbeck. Executive producer is Joe Crawford.


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