This uniquely organized memoir--told first by the mother, then by the son--follows a poor black family from Southern sharecrop beginnings to professional triumphs up North and gives a valuable inside view of how some families succeed. Maggie fled poverty and an abusive stepfather in 1920, settling near an older sister in East Chicago, Indiana. She met Hugh Comer through church friends, married him and worked hard for 12 years before the first of her four children was born. That period gave them more financial stability than the average family and a more mature and focused attitude toward parenting: they emphasized education, religion, and respect for others and enjoyed, until Hugh's early death, a relatively comfortable life. Jim, the first born, grew up with specific expectations of success and conscious participation in the growing history of the family. This highly regarded director of the Yale Child Study Center's school intervention program looks back on those years with an easy blend of anecdotes and child development insights. Comer discusses those attitudes and ideas that were crucial to himself, his brothers, and sister--black children in a largely white community--and enabled them to earn a total of 13 college degrees and to pursue meaningful adult lives. And he examines how these ideas influenced policy at Yale, specifically in the program designed to strengthen the school years of disadvantaged young people. But it is Maggie's words near the conclusion that most emphatically express the philosophy that carried the Comers through: ""People say that black folks ought to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They forget that most black folks didn't get boots, and white folks did. We have to make our own boots, straps and all."" Low-keyed, poignant, and genuinely inspiring.