Thursday, September 3, 2009


In the year and half since we relocated to Atlanta, I have not felt displaced. This city suits me. Like me, Atlanta has no idea what it wants to be or where it wants to go. It meanders around in circles, and eventually I get where I need to be. I think I might have found my town.

At least I thought so, until I read SEARCHING FOR VIRGINIA DARE. Now I find myself downright homesick. My second grader is studying the great state of Georgia, and I have an overwhelming desire to take her to the Outer Banks, show her the Elizabethan Gardens, Tryon Palace, Old Salem. The other day she asked me what Krispy Kreme was! What have I done!?

Perhaps more disturbing is my discovery that she will not learn a thing about Virginia Dare. Virginia Dare does not belong just to North Carolina. She was the first English child born in America, though she was lost to history just a few days after her birth in 1587 when her grandfather, the expedition's governor, left his destitute colonists and family behind to return to England for supplies. Three years later he returned to ransacked, abandoned huts and a cryptic message carved on a tree that still remains a mystery.

Marjorie Hudson chronicles history's attempt to solve the mystery of our first colonists, from Depression era plays, a French sculptress's obsession,an epic poem, and modern archaeological digs to her own quest through the Great Dismal Swamp and into the overlooked world of the Lumbee Tribe. There are libraries devoted to the Lost Colony, but what sets Hudson's effort apart is her connection to the child, Virgina Dare. Hudson opens her heart to the reader, immersing herself in this story as old as our nation. It is difficult not to get swept away with her compassion. She relates her own trials, her own family history, her own maternal desires and brings us closer to those who sacrificed everything to become legend and to the daughter that vanished with them.

Hudson's conclusion is optimistic, but logical. In the same spin it is ironic in that it ties the first Americans to the most displaced Native American tribe, the Lumbees. SEARCHING FOR VIRGINIA DARE lands in your own backyard, where you least expect.

North Carolina is studied by every 4th grade student in the Old North State. My 4th grade teacher was fanatical. We memorized every date, every symbol. We jogged the miles from Murphey to Manteo on the schoolyard track. My education of the Lost Colony, however, cast Virginia Dare as a mere infant, important in statistics only as the first English child. Marjorie Hudson has made Virginia so much more to me. She is our first missing child.


  1. I love the legend of Virginia dare and this book brought all that back to me! It was a great read :)

  2. This blogging stuff is new to me and yours is the first blog I've read from someone I don't know. I went to the main library in downtown Winston Salem to hear Kevin speak on getting one's book published a while back, and he suggested we all start blogging, so here I am reading my first book review and you've snagged me. I'm going to have to get the book. Good timing, as I've recently had foot surgery and am cozily cocooned in a sea of marshmallowy pillows. By the way, I'm from Atlanta originally. If you can handle the traffic, you're set, because Atlanta has it ALL! Debbie McCann