BROTHER BILLY by Ruth Carter Stapleton


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When Henry Kissinger asked Ruth Carter Stapleton what her brother Billy was really like, she says she ""realized he was asking something which has been on the minds of millions of Americans."" That questionable assumption pretty well sets the tone for this superficial assortment of reminiscences--a childhood of barrel hoops, kites, and magnolias; selling peanuts on the streets of Plains; studying at home by kerosene lamp. Meanwhile, we do get a surprisingly revealing look at Brother Billy--hoping to run the family business and frustrated working for his brother after their father's untimely death; moving his own family away from Plains but still feeling ""total failure"" and winding up at Alcoholics Anonymous because ""his drinking was out of control."" Stapleton works hard to dispel Billy Carter's ""redneck"" image, emphasizing his many black friends and picturing him as ""vulnerable and human."" But Billy enjoyed feeding the press ""great piles of baloney,"" she tells us, and they ""bought his redneck line."" Now even Billy admits that he ""really created a monster."" The beer jokes and gas station stories are familiar, but we learn too that the new family fame has not been easy--marital problems and a widening gulf between the Carter brothers. A once-over-lightly treatment that makes serious points almost in spite of itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row