Sunday, December 23, 2012

Growing Up

1982, 1984 Signet edition
Russell Baker
Growing Up
Original price $3.95, purchase price unknown
Worn paperback

Baker got his second Pulitzer prize for this autobiography, and deservedly so.  It's warm but not overly sentimental, with a wry sense of humor.  He sees the faults of his family and younger self with affectionate criticism.  The most prominent figure is his tough, determined mother, particularly as she struggles through the Great Depression.  The book begins and ends with her as an old woman who's lost her sense of time.  She didn't get along with her mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, both strong, stubborn women in their own right.  Other than the flash-forward to her old age, the book covers roughly the first half of the 20th century, and moves from Virginia to New Jersey to Maryland, plus Baker's travels in the South during World War II.  (He never fought overseas.)

It's a very quick read for 350ish pages, but that's partly because there are photos interspersed throughout.  Baker's family has interesting faces, and I think I like his no-nonsense sister Doris best.  It's too bad that he doesn't seem to have written a sequel to this book, as I would've liked to have read about his early life as husband and father.  He's still alive at 87 though, so who knows, although he does seem to have retired from journalism and other writing.

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