Life is So Good, George Dawson and Richard Glaubman

November 8, 2015

Just finished this lovely book that, on the surface, is the autobiography of a poor, illiterate African American man’s life that spans 102 years. But as the co-author says, “I had come to record a life of hardship and was not prepared to hear of gratitude.” True, the story does start with a lynching, but most of it is how a good man gets by. Here are some of my favorite parts.

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Richard looked at my hot chocolate and asked me, “Do you see that cup as half full or half empty?”

“I see it as being enough. So it’s just fine.”

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[After a tour of NASA:] People fly in airplanes, but living on other planets, that’s something else. They even gave me a picture of Mars. It’s got poor-looking soil and it’s too rocky to grow anything. Maybe they plan to bring food with them. Even so, I just don’t see it. A man will come out on the front porch and there won’t be nothing to do. There won’t be no other people to mix with.

Of course, I didn’t tell that to the folks at NASA. They have a good time there and like what they’re doing. I wouldn’t want to ruin that for them. If it don’t hurt nobody else, I don’t see no harm in it. But if they ever got up there to live, I think they’re going to be disappointed. Still, they will have to figure that out for themselves.

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This is the part I loved best because it made me see things from a new point of view:

“Do you remember the Scopes [“Monkey”] trial?” [Richard] asked. “It was in 1925 and they called it the ‘trial of the century.'”

“No, I don’t remember that,” I said.

“It was in Tennessee, but it was in all the papers.”

“I didn’t read the papers then, son.”

“Right,” Richard said. “But I thought that your friends might have talked about it.”

“Was the teacher a colored man?”

“No,” Richard said. “The teacher on trial was white.”

“Well then,” I said. “Back in the 1920s that would have been white news. It had nothing to do with the colored.”

“But it’s a part of American history,” Richard said.

I laughed. “That’s good, son. But it wasn’t part of the America I knew. If it was, I would remember. There were a lot of trials then, but the only ones that colored folks noticed were when a colored man went on trial for raping a white woman. Those trials were made-up things, but the hangings to follow was all too real. No offense, son, but I don’t think we was too worried about what a white man was allowed to teach.”

***

I highly recommend Life is So Good for people whose family came out of the poverty of early 20th century America, and for those interested in African American perspectives. Good stuff.