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“Life is So Good” by George Dawson

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In 1996 a literacy volunteer knocked on 98-year-old Texan George Dawson’s door and told him adult education courses were being taught a few blocks away. Mr. Dawson responded eagerly, “Wait, I’ll get my coat.”

I wrote here about Dawson and posted the famous picture taken at the beginning of his amazing media ride.

Local and national reporters “responded eagerly” themselves to the inspiring story of a new beginning so late in life. A poor son of the Jim Crow era, born on a rocky farm, Dawson was sent away at age 12 because his family needed his wages and wanted one less mouth at the table. His younger siblings went to school, but for George it wasn’t an option.

His life-long yearning to read fueled his determination; he eventually learned to read at a 3rd grade level and continued going to school nearly till his death at 103.

Along the way he acquired a ghostwriter, a Seattle schoolteacher named Richard Glaubman. Their book, “Life Is So Good,” was featured as one of Oprah’s Books and Dawson appeared on Oprah’s show and many others.

Glaubman took him back to Marshall, Texas to look at old newspaper articles. They found nothing, for instance, about the lynching of Dawson’s friend Pete, who had been completely innocent (as events later proved when it was far too late to save his life).

Did all my growing up in Marshall but was always on the outside. I couldn’t read in those days and never even looked at a newspaper. … In those days, it seems like everything had two stories, the white story and the colored story.

I started to notice that this paper was not about the Marshall that I knew. All the pictures, at the fire hall, the school yard, the grange, and the rodeo, only had white people in them.

Dawson decided he had been granted such a long life so he could tell his story:
I am a witness to the truth. That’s why I am still here. I can’t let the truth die with me.
Thankfully historians attend to humble people more than they used to. Archaeologists even sift through old slave cookfires to see what their unchronicled lives were like. The lives of humble people disappear if nobody writes the stories. For this reason, Dawson’s memories are priceless: surviving on a farm where the only product that could be bartered out was “ribbon syrup,” how to slaughter a hog, the way he and the other members of the Negro baseball league couldn’t find bathrooms they could use, working on the levees, riding the rails… Oprah’s favorite quote from Dawson was: “With children, you got to raise them. Some parents these days are growing children, not raising them.”

In order to enjoy this book you have to accept that Dawson’s authentic voice has not been preserved. It’s a book by Glaubman. Glaubman inserts himself into every chapter as a strong presence, and I frankly do not find him very interesting. I would have preferred an oral history to this gussied-up presentation which begins Chapter One, for example, this way: “Wanting to enjoy every moment, I stared at the hard candies…” Give me a break. If George Dawson began his sentences with gerunds, I’ll eat my hat.

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About Jane

  • Still interesting…

  • This sounds like a really interesting story, Jane. History and creative non-fiction mixed together with a personal story. Nice job.

  • lulu

    this book was sooooooooo hard but interesting

  • moose

    this book was boring

  • PT

    Richard Glaubman was my fifth grade P.E. teacher, and I met George Dawson. This is a great book. Read it.

  • gg

    this book was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good

  • asdtfgyhuj

    zZZZ borrring

  • terry2013

    im doing my project on George Dawson and i think his book was great

  • lavis

    this book is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo boring

  • iokjsag


  • Pestilence

    this book is a great book

  • ghjglj

    i need the climax of the book

  • yogaba

    i haave to read this for my summer reading at school and its soo boring im on chpt.9 out of 24… and school is in 2 weeks! grr i need a audio book to help me finish faster haha

  • you all are not smart

    you all have no sense of tatse

  • you all are not smart

    this book is greta

  • zingzing

    “you all are not so smart,” you either have a wonderful sense of irony (and comedic timing), or… no, it must be that. “tatse” and “greta” are just too wonderful to be mistakes.

  • Chanty

    I liked this book! kinda boring at first but his life was so great!

  • Detroit

    I’ve read this book several times and enjoy it more each time.

  • Josh

    This was cut into a dramatic interpretation and made it to the final round of the National Forensics League tournamet.

  • stephanie

    This is a wonderful book. If you think its boring you are probably white and dont care about the problems blacks had to face.I feel sorry that your so ignorant

  • Lilly

    This book was a good book. Many of you can’t seem to find the real meaning to this book. It was never about slavery, because George was never a slave. He was an African American boy/adult who lived in a more diverse world. It was never about fearing white people, because his father had taugh him to respect others, not just a race. This book was simply about his life and how he stayed out of trouble, that is what made his life so remarkable. Life was so good to him.

  • Rahzmahm

    This book is “So Good”. As a teacher, I am able to share with my students why “no excuses” is a motivation to learn. What a joy to read the thoughts and feelings regarding this nation’s events from a matter-of-fact perspective. When I finished reading, I felt like I was telling a good friend, “you will be missed.”