What makes a happy person, a happy life? In this remarkable book, George Dawson, a 101-year-old man who learned to read when he was 98, reflects on the philosophy he learned from his father-a belief that "life is so good"-as he offers valuable lessons in living and a fresh, firsthand view of America during the twentieth century. Born in 1898 in Marshall, Texas, the grandson of slaves, George Dawson tells how his father, despite hardships, always believed in seeing the richness in life and trained his children to do the same. As a boy, George had to go to work to help support the family, and so he did not attend school or learn to read; yet he describes how he learned to read the world and survive in it. "We make our own way," he says. "Trouble is out there, but a person can leave it alone and just do the right thing. Then, if trouble still finds you, you've done the best you can." At ninety-eight, George decided to learn to read and enrolled in a literacy program, becoming a celebrated student. "Every morning I get up and I wonder what I might learn that day. You just never know." In Life Is So Good, he shares wisdom on everything from parenting ("With children, you got to raise them. Some parents these days are growing children, not raising them") to attitude ("People worry too much. Life is good, just the way it is"). Richard Glaubman captures George Dawson's irresistible voice and view of the world, offering insights into humanity, history, and America-eyewitness impressions of segregation, changes in human relations, the wars and the presidents, inventions such as the car and the airplane, and much, much more. And throughout his story, George Dawson inspires the reader with the message that sustained him happily for more than a century: "Life is so good. I do believe it's getting better."
A 101-year-old retired laborer who enrolled in a literacy class near his Dallas, Tex., home at the age of 98, George Dawson now reads and writes on a third-grade level. From Dawson's eloquent words, co-writer Glaubman, a Seattle elementary school teacher, has fashioned two engrossing stories. First is the inspiring saga of how someone who was the grandson of a slave managed to navigate the brutally segregated small Texas town of Marshall, where Dawson was born, without losing his integrity or enjoyment of life. Although he worked from an early age and was never able to attend school, Dawson credits his strong family, especially his father, for giving him the skills to survive. His father told him to work hard, to do no wrong and always to avoid trouble with white people--advice that was brutally underscored the day he and his father witnessed a white mob lynching a black neighbor. The other theme running through these recollections is the institutionalized racism of the American South. Hardened to the entrenched discrimination that excluded him from good jobs and "white" restaurants and rest rooms, Dawson protested just once, when a woman for whom he was doing yard work expected him to eat with her dogs. Despite the harsh conditions of his life, he considers himself fortunate to have enjoyed food, housing, friends and family (he has outlived four wives and fathered seven children). This is an astonishing and unforgettable memoir. Agent, Harriet Wasserman. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 01, 2000
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Excerpt from Life Is So Good by George Dawson
Wanting to enjoy every moment, I stared at the hard candies in the different wooden barrels. The man behind the counter was white. I could tell he didn't like me, so I let him see the penny in my hand.
"Take your time, son," my father said with a grin. "You did a man's work this year."
Putting his hand on my shoulder, he said to the store clerk, "He's all of ten years, but the boy crushed as much cane as I did." Since the age of four, I had always been working to help the family.
I don't know if it was pride from Father's words or the pleasure from a piece of hard candy that beckoned, but I felt so good I thought I would burst. I had been thinking of those hard candies since my father woke me before daybreak and said, "Hitch the wagon. We gonna take some ribbon syrup into town and you comin'."
When I went back inside, the stove was going and Ma had a pot of mush cooling. We ate quiet-like so as not to wake the little ones that were asleep on the other side of the room.