A Love Story
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 Here is an unsentimental family memoir that also elegizes Mt. Vernon Avenue, a mile-and-a-quarter strip that once saw its best days as the heartbeat of Columbus, Ohio's African-American community in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Haygood, a Boston Globe reporter, is the author of two previous books, including an admired 1993 biography of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., King of the Cats. This book, an account of ``the common Burkes, the holding-on Haygoods,'' documents a sprawling urban, working-class African-American family with southern rural roots. These are people who juggle multiple jobs and scrimp to buy homes and to dress with style on Saturday night and Sunday morning. In 1968, as Haygood is entering adolescence, his spirited mother, Elvira, moves her brood from her parents' ramshackle house to a new, three-acre federal housing complex on the other side of town, closer to the glitter of Mt. Vernon Avenue's nightlife, where she too often drifts in search of glamour beyond her workaday world. The lure of the streets and easy living poses a constant threat to the Haygood siblings, but even when they succumb, some of them find a redemptive path through faith, family, and grit. What keeps Wil on his upwardly mobile path is a devotion to basketball. Ironically, his athletic skills are marginal, but he has the shrewdness to transfer to a more affluent and academically stronger high school, where he makes the team. To protect his eligibility to play sports, he gets himself into a federally funded summer enrichment program. Such improvisational efforts result in a scholarship to Miami University of Ohio. After graduation, a stint on the local black weekly newspaper, whose offices anchored the business community of Mt. Vernon Avenue, sets him on his eventual career course. With an unpretentious eloquence and humor, Haygood shows a deft ability to convey complex lives, a past era, and a memorable place. (20 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 13th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-67170-1
Page count: 358pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997


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