Diary of a Rebel Girl

A Spill-All Tale From the Roaring ’20s


     When Doris Murphy was 15, she wrote, “I hope no one ever reads my diaries.” In those volumes, she confided her fixation about her hair, her nails and boys. Definitely boys. But later she wrote, “I love to be a sensation” — and her great-niece Julia Park Tracey chose that updated point of view as the true one.
     It’s clear Tracey loves bringing Doris’s voice to the world. Starting with a Facebook page where she posted a few sentences at a time (and garnered more than 1,000 fans), Tracey grew the enterprise to the point that Volume I of the Doris Diaries, titled I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do, is now available. This covers Doris’s teen years — Tracey calls her great-aunt the Bridget Jones of the ’20s — and is part of a planned four-part series.
     What makes the diaries so fascinating is that they represent a lost era, where people said “Gee” without irony and were “full of pep.” Adds Tracey, “There are no diaries from teenagers in the 1920s. They don’t exist.” Laboriously typing up the handwritten pages — three hours a day for eight weeks — Tracey added an introductory chapter and numerous photographs and footnotes to interpret
Murphy’s milieu.
     The other noteworthy aspect is that Murphy herself was colorful and forward-thinking. (She died in 2011 at the age of 101; Tracey inherited her diaries and thus the project was born.) For her senior project at Reed College, Murphy interviewed prostitutes from a social work perspective, which “caused a huge furor,” says Tracey. During World War II, she met ships at San Francisco’s Ferry Building and helped debarking refugees locate housing and clothing. She was active in union causes, marrying labor activist Joe Murphy, and was known for being an iconoclastic, rebellious personality. At her 100th birthday party, she wore earrings made of condoms.
      “In a sense, I don’t miss her that much,” says Tracey, “because she’s here more now than she was when she was alive. She’s in me.”
     That vital spirit is egging Tracey on to do a bit of performance art at her book events. She scavenged a Victrola at the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, which she’ll port to bookstores to play “I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do.” The song that inspired the book’s title “sounds like Porky Pig is singing it,” Tracey admits, but it’s all part of bringing the Roaring Twenties to the Much-Quieter Tens.
     She’s also encouraging imbibing of her designer Rebel Girl cocktail, a twist on a Greyhound (some events will be held at “speakeasies” rather than bookstores). Rebel Girl was Murphy’s well-earned nickname. Finally, behold the chance to “meet” Murphy: Tracey will dress vintage and play her relative. “I have done an alarming amount of research in the past year to get details right.
     I just chopped off a couple of inches of hair and have been practicing marcelling it. It’s harder than you’d think. But super-cute!”
     Get a sneak peek at Tracey and the diaries by entering “The Doris Diaries” into YouTube to see several videos she created to support the book.
     Join Tracey at one of her colorful events soon. For info, check the website at www.thedorisdiaries.com or better yet, follow @TheDorisDiaries on Twitter.

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