A disturbing but inspiring memoir of a difficult childhood and adulthood.




In this debut memoir, Runyan describes how she was shaped by her hardscrabble upbringing.

The author was born in the early 1940s in the tiny home of poor tomato farmers in the Red River Valley of Texas. Her father frequently moved the family in his pursuit of better opportunities—from studying at a Bible college in Arkansas to driving a school bus in West Texas to working at a sawmill in Oregon—until his crippling depression made him unable to work. Runyan writes that her harsh, often violent mother did her best to keep the family fed, but there were many times when the kids went without food. The author writes that she was raped by her older sister’s husband when she was young, and not long afterward, at 16, she eloped with a boy from her school and tried to build an adult life—one far removed from poverty and instability. However, the boy she married turned out to be an unreliable husband, and having three kids of her own quickly taught her that life is never easy. Indeed, as she attempted to find lessons about how to be a woman in the world, she looked back on her mother’s behavior with greater understanding. Runyan’s prose is folksy but sharp, particularly when it’s filtered through her perspective as a young girl: “It turned out that Daddy had heard God call on him to preach the Gospel….Did he come right down from heaven, walk into the house, and call out to Daddy to come and listen to him? Maybe he sent an angel down to tell him.” The book’s tone is often cheery despite the subject matter’s bleakness, and several scenes contrast childhood play with grim reality, as when Runyan and her brother found a bullet at an Army base and left it on the kitchen stove—only to have it explode and injure their mother. The author also does an excellent job of documenting mid-20th-century American poverty in a way that feels simultaneously unusual and completely relatable.

A disturbing but inspiring memoir of a difficult childhood and adulthood.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72744-155-0

Page Count: 153

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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