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.
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.”
[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.
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.