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Life Is So Good: One Man's Extraordinary Journey through the 20th Century and How he Learned to Read at Age 98 Paperback – June 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 256 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

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.
---Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141001682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141001685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I originally bought 2 copies and am now ordering 9 more copies. There is so much wisdom in this book. It is a primer on life. It goes beyond "Tuesdays with Morrie". George Dawson is so positive and upbeat. I agree with the previous reviewer that this should be mandatory reading in schools, but I would lower the grades to Junior High School and maybe even 5th and 6th graders. George gives us a black man's perspective of life in the South in the first half of the 1900's. He also gives us an excellent work ethic and model for living. White and black children alike would benefit from the historical perspective. We all can benefit from his little philosophical statements here and there. I had lots of smiles while reading this, plus many tears. I remember the South (I'm white) when bathrooms, drinking fountains and restaurants were segregated. I was a child from California, to whom this was foreign. George brings these memories back, but in a non-judgemental way. He experienced the introduction of cars and airplanes, as well as the tragedy at Columbine High School. Through out, he has respect for others and a tolerance for differing perspectives. Buy this book. Read it, and then pass it on. Share it with your children. Discuss the contents. George Dawson has truly given us all a remarkable gift.
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Format: Hardcover
The reader is immediately introduced to life in east Texas through the eyes of a young black boy named George Dawson. At the age of ten, George is an eyewitness to the lynching of an innocent black teenager, who happens to be his friend, by an angry mob of local white men. This lynching is only the beginning of a well documented story of how life really was for a black living in the south . George has no chance to attend school, since his labor is needed to help support the family, but this does not deter George from having a positive outlook on life. Through out the book, George always is able to find a bright side and give thanks for what most people take for granted. At an early age, George is instructed by his father how black are expected to "respect" whites and not to ever do business with them. It is not until George is almost 100 years old does he finally break away from everything his father taught him and decides to do business with Richard Glaubman, the author of this book. We are very fortunate that George does decide to let Mr. Glaubman write of his life as the reader, especially white readers, finally see how life was for a black growing up in America from 1898 until the present. At the age of 98, George is able to start school and finally fulfill his life long desire to read. George is an inspiration to anyone who reads this book and Mr. Glaubman does an excellent job in documenting George's work and travel. His interaction with George, both as a friend and an author, helps to break the barrier of whites and blacks that has been instilled in George since his early childhood. I feel grateful that I read an article in THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE about Mr. Dawson as I immediately ordered the book and read it at once.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The quote that titles this review is written at the end of chapter one. It is a chapter that were it to be isolated as a short story, it would make the final list for any awards in that category.
There is no book I can compare this to, but if you take the wisdom of "Tuesday's With Morrie" and the struggles and triumph of the human spirit of "Angela's Ashes", you begin to approach this book, the story of the life of Mr. George Dawson.
Mr. Dawson started school when he was 98 years old. He is now approaching 102 and continues to work for his High School Equivalency Degree. It is difficult to describe this man, as he has no peers who have shared his 102 year life. Four wives shared parts of his life, but Mr. Dawson continues to live after they all have passed away. Mr. Dawson does note that many women would like to marry him now, and he has not ruled the possibility out.
What is Mr. Dawson like? In the book he muses as to why people say everything tastes like chicken, as an example Rattlesnake. However no one ever says anything tastes like Rattlesnake. Mr. Dawson is not "like" anybody. He is unlike anyone you know, anyone you have read about, he is an original, one of a kind. Every day that his life advances he becomes more unique, more of a treasure.
The final chapters of this book are as dramatic as the first. Mr. Dawson has a decision to make, a decision that either will allow this book to become a reality, or for his life to remain kept only to those who have known him. To make this decision he relies upon advice his Father had given him as a young man. His Father followed this advice throughout his own 99 year life, and as Mr. Dawson states, "between my Father and I it worked for over 200 years".
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Format: Hardcover
In 1993, sisters Sarah and Elizabeth Delany became overnight celebrities with the publication of their memoir, "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," written in collaboration with New York Times reporter Amy Hill Hearth. It became a national bestseller, was adapted into a highly successful stage play and TV movie, and led to two more books by the Delanys.
"Sweet Sadie" and "Queen Bess," as they called one other, have since passed on. But picking up the torch is 101-year-old George Dawson, the principal author of "Life Is So Good," co-written with Richard Glaubman. The book was done as an oral history, and deals primarily with life in the South.
The volume is an excellent read -- instructive, insightful, emotionally moving and inspiring. And while it covers nearly the same historical period as the Delany sisters' work, it examines the time from very different perspectives. The Delanys were light-skinned, professional women with college degrees, who spent most of their careers in New York City. Dawson, on the hand, was not only uneducated, but illiterate, and never rose above blue-collar work. In addition, he was dark of complexion, which undoubtedly raised the bar for him.
"Life Is So Good" is a page-turner, rushing forward like a well-written novel, and breathing with authenticity. The editor preserves Dawson's voice whenever possible, purposely not correcting the unschooled grammar. Because Dawson was not influenced by newspapers, books, or historical events as they happened, his story is his alone, and acts as a mirror to the times in which he lived. The book has a timeless quality that will make it good reading a century from now.
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