Life Is So Good, by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman, c. 2000
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.
Dawson, a black manual laborer who learned to read at age 98, has written a memoir that stands apart from other end-of-the-century texts and from the history generally recorded in textbooks--but is essential to an accurate understanding of this century. The product of a collaboration between Dawson and high school history teacher Glaubman, the book juxtaposes significant events of the century with Dawson's personal experiences. Although he endured hardship, Dawson's positive philosophy sustained him to a ripe old age. Written in a simple, conversational style, this volume will be valuable for general readers and in college classes. A welcome addition to any academic or public library.