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Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Hardcover – May 29, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Kalish's memoir of her Iowa childhood, set against the backdrop of the Depression, captures a vanished way of traditional living and a specific moment in American history in a story both illuminating and memorable. Kalish lived with her siblings, mother and grandparents-seven in all-both in a town home and, in warmer weather, out on a farm. The lifestyle was frugal in the extreme: "The only things my grandparents spent money on were tea, coffee, sugar, salt, white flour, cloth and kerosene." But in spite of the austere conditions, Kalish's memories are mostly happy ones: keeping the farm and home going, caring for animals, cooking elaborate multi-course meals and washing the large family's laundry once a week, by hand. Here, too, are stories of gossiping in the kitchen, digging a hole to China with the "Big Kids" and making head cheese at butchering time. Kalish skillfully rises above bitterness and sentiment, giving her memoir a clear-eyed narrative voice that puts to fine use a lifetime of careful observation: "Observing the abundance of life around us was just so naturally a part of our days on the farm that it became a habit." Simple, detailed and honest, this is a refreshing and informative read for anyone interested in the struggles of average Americans in the thick of the Great Depression.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
One of the most endearing qualities of octogenarian Mildred Armstrong Kalishs Little Heathens is that it runs counter to what the memoir, sadly, has too frequently becomeself-indulgent, self-promoting gossip. Despite circumstances that could easily have left her embittered, Kalish, a retired English professor, recalls her formative years fondly. Through simple, honest prose punctuated with "her old pagan rhythms" (New York Times Book Review) and a host of memorable examples, Kalish performs her greatest feat, which is to make some of us under 80 just the slightest bit enviouscrazy to say, but such is human naturethat we never experienced the Depression-era challenges and triumphs so lovingly recounted.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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I was amazed at how similar the customs and language were to my time and place. I thoroughly enjoyed having my memory jogged and can certainly see why those times have been called "the good old days." Yes, those times were sometimes hard but family life was so much more important and even necessary back then. It sad how technology has taken away the social closeness that we felt then. To see so many totally involved with smart phones, and blackberries that they don't seem to see each other anymore even when together is really sad. I much prefer playing rummy, or go fishing, or monopoly with a friend or sibling to punching little buttons and ignoring my surroundings or companions.........
We lacked cousins in the area, for my Dad`s sisters had settled in other parts of the country after college and my Mom was an only child from Iowa who met, fell in lve with Dad during college and married after a year of teaching. Our hands must not be idle, for the devil awaited such opportunities! Reading was a treat and a joy! Mildred yearned for cottonlike Wonder Bread like the town kids had, so did I. My brother and I, salt shaker in pocket, sat in the dirt and ate tomatoes warmed by the sun. We sang around the piano as my Mother played and accompanied us in her full, rich alto voice. We listened to war news, while Mom knit socks and sweaters for boys in the Army and Navy, suffered through rationing, feared invasion over our hills....All considerations for someone born 11 years later. I am grateful she wrote her memoir!