A writer recalls her wildly peripatetic youth in the mid-20th century, traveling around the South with a father who is by turns a criminal and an entrepreneur.
Debut author Rafter had an uncommonly dramatic life. Her father, Urbie Meeks, was at one time a notorious moonshiner hunted by federal authorities and took Rafter and her 11 siblings with him “on the lam.” Urbie cheerfully referred to these escapades as “adventures,” though he was finally apprehended and sent to jail in Atlanta. He got his start illicitly selling homemade alcohol after the Depression decimated economic opportunities in the Glades of South Florida, a place so “notorious as a mobster hideout” that it became known as the “Chicago of the South.” As he once said of his product, “There’s one thing that people will buy in good times and bad—in good times to celebrate and in bad times to kill their pain.” When he finally gave up on the moonshine business, he became a chronically restless and sometimes-quixotic entrepreneur—he tried to invent a perpetual motion device, the “magic machine.” But his obsession with drinking and gambling doomed his ventures to failure. Rafter’s mother, Leila, heroically kept the family members together even as they traveled in search of work: picking cotton in Alabama, cherries in Michigan, and tomatoes in Indiana. Leila also did her best to protect the children from Urbie’s recurring violence, which they considered, from this otherwise loving man, “confusing and frightening.” The account, told in poetically unembellished but powerfully unflinching prose, is cinematically dramatic. After Leila tragically died, taking an unborn child with her, and Urbie was forced into convalescence in a nursing home, the kids were placed in an orphanage, with some later sent to foster care, a terrifying experience poignantly conveyed. The author artfully avoids any sententious moralizing or treacly sentiments—her earnest style of storytelling is affecting. Her youth was truly remarkable, and her stirringly composed book does that stage of her life justice.
A roller-coaster ride of a memoir, as dramatic as it is touching.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)