A creatively rendered, memorable memoir.



Award-winning poet and writer Lanter (The Final Days, 2013, etc.) remembers growing up in rural Illinois during the middle of the 20th century.

Begun as a set of reminiscences to be shared with relatives at a family reunion, this personal narrative weaves recollections, gossip, popular songs, nursery rhymes, and the author’s own poems and photographs into a rich tapestry depicting life in the American Midwest from 1935 to 1955. Lanter tells of his immigrant ancestors of English, French and German descent; of his birth “six months and ten days” after his parents’ wedding, a fact that in his father’s mind forever marked him as “the symbol of his incarceration in a marriage he did not want.” He led a “happy, unencumbered” childhood “at the edge of the farm doing what rural people have always done to give meaning to their interests and concerns. We had work to help with, planting and digging potatoes and otherwise tending the garden.” In a one-room country schoolhouse and at a small-town high school, he stumbled through the maze of pubescence, victory gardens, blackouts, and maimed and broken veterans returning home from World War II. He tells of his love and aptitude for basketball and baseball, which opened the way for his escape to university, “out of the village, out of the welding shop and away from the coal mines where a number of my friends were already headed.” Lanter’s verse beautifully communicates the emotional content of the narrative, while the songs and rhymes he includes (“You’re in the Army Now,” “This Little Piggy Went to Market”)provide historical context as well as a bridge to shared childhood experiences. Though the text is at times heavy on details, it is a measure of the writer’s skill that the book’s diverse elements coalesce and invoke in readers a feeling of nostalgia for a past they may never have known.

A creatively rendered, memorable memoir.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0983841227

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Twiss Hill Press

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2014

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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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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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