All God's Dangers ; The life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1974. Second printing. Hardcover. 561 pages ; 25 cm. $10.00 dust jacket. Cigarette odor within the pages of this book. Previous owner gift inscription on the front free endpaper. No other markings within this book. Binding is firm.
"I have had my eyes open... and my ears, what I've heard; and what I have touched with my hands and what touched me is a fact. . . . God knows I won't jump back from telling what I know..."
The man who speaks is Nate Shaw at 85, a cotton farmer, born in Alabama in 1885, the son of former slaves, striving from his earliest years to be free and to prosper. He pours out the truth of his long life in this extraordinary autobiography that envelops us in the world of the rural South through almost a century.
He summons up his youth—deprived of schooling and kept at the plow from the age of nine, working wherever his daddy put him, acquiring the skills of farming, courting and marrying his 'heartthrob of a girl," Hannah; his manhood—his years with his wife and family (there were ten children) as he rose from sharecropper to tenant farmer, dealing with swindling landlords and hostile merchants, becoming his own boss, his own man. We see Nate Shaw in the terrible 1930's, joining a sharecroppers union, coming to the aid of a neighbor about to be dispossessed and exchanging shots with the sheriff's deputies— an act that led him to twelve years in prison. We see him emerging in 1945, a man of al most sixty, landless but undefeated, determined to begin again, a mule farmer in a tractor world...
His life story, brilliantly and unobtrusively edited from the 1500-page transcription of his spoken recollections, is both universal and particular. Nate Shaw's experience embodies the history—the everyday realities—of the Deep South since Reconstruction. He is himself special, a storyteller in the great Southern tradition, with a passionate commitment to making us know how things really were. With its incomparable wealth and concreteness of human and social detail, his narrative will stand among the most compelling and revealing works of American autobiography.
Theodore Rosengarten was born in 1944 in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to the suburbs when he was ten. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1966, and will soon receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He was awarded an Ethnic Studies grant by the Ford Foundation for 1972/3. Mr. Rosengarten lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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