An inspiring memoir about a man pursuing his goal to become a psychiatrist.
Wilkerson (Beautiful Brown Eyes and Other Stories, 2008) offers a modern-day illustration of the American dream, beginning with his early life on a farm. He and his family moved around Oklahoma and Arkansas as his father tried to find work during the Great Depression. As the author grew up, his expectations were minimal: He would most probably take up farming and work on his grandparents’ land, or find some local job in the neighborhood. But his life took some unexpected turns, and he began to want more than what his parents had. As early as age 7, he learned that he couldn’t rely on his father, a shifty man who couldn’t hold a job or support his family. His father disappeared for periods of time, eventually abandoning his family to run off with a woman named Mary Matheny, later the mother of the author’s five half siblings. Once Wilkerson became the man of the house, he took it upon himself to find ways to make money. Later, he wanted to go to college and medical school and one day have a solid profession. Despite disadvantages and challenges that included a lack of finances, education and family support, he pursued his dream and made it a reality. Wilkerson tells his story with humor, honesty and affection and paints an evocative picture of his trials and achievements. The memoir’s brief chapters center on charming anecdotes that lend color to the author’s climb to success, and his determination throughout is uplifting and inspiring. Readers will also appreciate the author’s eye for detail and his skill at relating the kinds of moments that make stories come to life (“[M]y very first memory at around age three is of Grandpa Sherman placing a cold gallon of milk in the dusty backseat floor of our 1929 Ford.”).
An engaging tale of self-actualization.