Best-selling author Laura Pedersen follows up Buffalo Gal, her 2008 memoir about growing up in the Queen City during the 1970s while it was experiencing a downturn in stature and prosperity, with Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration, which sings the praises of all Buffalo, New York currently has and previously had to offer over the years.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century, Buffalo was America’s eight largest city and made a valuable contribution in keeping the country connected. It was home to a major railroad hub and the Erie Canal connected Lake Erie to the Hudson River. As history shows nothing stays on top forever so naturally the city fell into decline as businesses moved away and opportunities became limited. Yet, people have found ways to thrive there. Pedersen points out those famous, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and those little known outside the city, Joseph Ellicot, who have made contributions that shape the city.
Of course, you can’t talk about Buffalo without mentioning chicken wings, the weather and the struggles of its sports teams. Pedersen references President Obama’s recent visit to Duff’s in the suburb of Cheektowaga for some wings where a local woman made news for describing him as “a hottie with a smokin’ little body.” The winters can be tough, especially the Blizzard of ’77 which was so severe Mayor Stanley M. Makowski declared a state of emergency and restricted travel. The Super Bowl woes of the Buffalo Bills are notorious, but Sabres fans have had their hearts ripped out as well.
Pedersen has a very conversational style of writing, sounding more like a neighbor sharing stories in plain language rather than a writer trying to impress with her word choices. Unfortunately, at times she comes off slightly desperate in her civic promotion. She points out rock acts like Bruce Springsteen and U2 as well as big-name comedians like Jerry Seinfeld come to town as if there’s a big city they don’t play. Also, Pedersen demonstrates she’s slightly out of touch by referring to the Grateful Dead, whose members haven’t used that name since Jerry Garcia died in 1995, and still considering Paula Poundstone a big name.
While a pleasant read, Buffalo Unbound‘s audience seems limited to current and former Buffalonians (I am the latter) as well as those fascinated by the history of American cities. I wouldn’t be surprised it the book was handed out by the city’s welcoming committee.