An often charming family saga.



Goodwyn tells the story of an African American family in this debut blend of history and memoir.

The author lost his mother to kidney disease in 1970, when he was a high school freshman in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Soon afterward, he was involved in a car accident that put him in the hospital for six weeks. The shock of these events instilled in him a great desire to find out where he came from: “Sometimes Mama would talk about her ancestors,” he remembers. “Mama’s great grandmother was a slave until she was twelve, when her father bought her freedom.” Goodwyn set off on a decadeslong genealogical journey to discover the story of his forbears, and this book is an account of that search and a presentation of its results. It includes the stories of Levin Huston and Esther Polk Huston, married slaves who lived on a Maryland plantation; their son, Solomon Huston, who was born in bondage and died as the founder of a bank; and the author’s great-grandfather Samuel Garnett Thomas, who, like the author’s father, eventually served as a high school principal. Goodwyn’s prose is conversational in tone and possesses a cheerful buoyancy, as in a discussion of the Hustons’ children: “For whatever reason, Hester and her family never knew what happened to Levin Delans Huston. But 158 years after Levin D. sent his niece, Willie, that jade necklace, I now know what became of him.” It’s a long read at more than 500 pages, and it feels more like two books in one; the first half is essentially a memoir of Goodwyn’s life, and the second is a series of profiles of his ancestors. None of the individual stories are particularly compelling, but the overall family history—and the account of Goodwyn’s rediscovery of it—gives readers a touching portrait of an American family. The book, which includes occasional photos of family members, also effectively shows how ancestry-research websites have helped many black Americans reconnect to their pasts. Goodwyn is an empathetic guide, and although some sections are more interesting than others, he manages to lend emotional weight to the project as a whole.

An often charming family saga.

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950724-07-9

Page Count: 510

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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