A roller-coaster ride of a memoir, as dramatic as it is touching.


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. 

Pub Date: July 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64628-128-2

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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