by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
This is another memoir about the South, but it has quite a different tone and theme from All Over but the Shoutin'. George Dawson's grandparents were slaves freed at the end of the Civil War. It took them ten more years to work off "debt" to their former master, before they could actually move off the plantation and have their own place. They were given a small homestead of forty acres and a mule. Dawson grew up helping on the family farm, then at the age of twelve began working for wages on another farm nearby. He experienced firsthand the stifling inequality of segregation laws, and learned at an early age -seeing a friend falsely accused and killed by a mob- to move quietly through the background of events, laying low and avoiding notice. When he wanted to see more of the world, he traveled north into Canada, and south into Mexico. Paying to ride on trains when he could, hopping aboard with the hobos when his pockets were empty. He was a working man most of his life, breaking horses, laying train tracks, building levees- and even after retirement age, still found jobs to do in his neighborhood.
Although he could not go to school when young, and didn't learn to read until he was in his nineties, Dawson was an intelligent man who picked up so many things simply by observation, and had a sharp memory. Time and time again his story shows that learning from books isn't everything; life experience can teach you just as much. Life is So Good is a book about one man's character and integrity. A hardworking, honest man who taught his children well and coached them through school even though he could not yet read himself. He was never judgmental of others, content with what he had, and didn't let things worry him. I think that's a great outlook on life, and probably why he lived so long and healthy! What an inspiring story.
Rating: 3/5 ......... 260 pages, 2000
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