New Nonfiction: American Ghost – Hannah Nordhaus

Journalist and a historian Hannah Nordhaus’ last book, The Beekeeper’s Lament, was a PEN Center USA finalist in its Research Nonfiction—and a flat out entertaining read about the history, business and culture of beekeeping. This book finds its origins a little closer to home and takes as its starting point Norhaus’ great-great-grandmother, who, Norhaus discovers, might be having a second incarnation as “Santa Fe’s most famous ghost.”  The result is a fascinating interweaving of personal history, the history of the American frontier and psychic investigation. So far it’s received three starred advance reviews.

“Part travelogue, part memoir, part ghost story, part history. . . . Nordhaus offers a deeply compelling personal account of her attempts to better understand her own family. . . . The book’s unique blend of genres and its excellent writing make it hard to put down.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“The author’s multifaceted work brings Julia back to life and explores the journey it took to rediscover her narrative. . . . Every aspect of the account is enlightening, well written, and entertaining. This touching and uplifting work is highly recommended and will appeal to a variety of readers.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

[A] unique collision of family history, Wild West adventure, and ghost story. Since the 1970s, the grand La Posada hotel in Santa Fe has been subject to sightings of a ghost resembling Julia, who lived there with her husband, Abraham, and their seven children in the late 19th century. Nordhaus, who comes from a long line of skeptics, decides to investigate these rumors. She consults a variety of self-appointed supernatural experts—psychics, tarot-card readers, mediums, and dowsers—as well as more traditional sources such as newspaper archives, family diaries, and aging relatives.…In the process, Nordhaus uncovers a strain of mental illness that runs through one branch of her family, delves into the lore of the 19th-century spiritualist movement, and discovers how a true-life story can become a paranormal one. Perceptive, witty, and engaging, Nordhaus observes that ‘it’s not so much the ghost that keeps the dead alive… as it is the story.’
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Nordhaus approaches the legend of her great-great-grandmother’s ghost with the insight of an historian and the energy of an inspired detective. A fine tale well told. I loved every word.”
— Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in the beautiful literary afterlife Hannah Nordhaus has given her great-great-grandmother. American Ghost is a perfect blend of compassionate empathy, hardheaded journalism, and lucid writing.”
— Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow, Doc, and Epitaph

“In the early twenty-first century, Hannah Nordhaus sets out to find the truth about her great-great grandmother, Julia Schuster Staab. From a small village in Germany to a frontier city in New Mexico, we learn that unless they were telling the story themselves women of the Victorian era are limited to footnotes. Gathering information on a woman who last walked the earth one hundred years ago, Nordhaus gives the reader a compelling tale of Julia’s New Mexico and her periphery life as the wife of a merchant prince.”
— April Dawn Gosling, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

American Ghost: A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest (9780062249210) by Hannah Nordhaus. $25.99 hardcover. 3/10/15 on sale.

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