Leaving the Pipe Shop: Memories of Kin

Deborah E. McDowell, Author
Deborah E. McDowell, Author Scribner Book Company $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-684-81449-0
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-0-393-31843-2
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The author, a professor of English and African American studies at the University of Virginia, was summoned home to Pipe Shop, Alabama, to investigate whether her father's early death at age 51 in 1981 had been caused by asbestos poisoning from his work at a pipe and foundry company. (The matter remains unresolved because her father's employment records have been lost.) The trip back to the small Southern factory town triggers sad memories of a childhood impacted by the realities of segregation, but also fond recollections recounted here of a closely knit family life. Despite the author's rambling, somewhat disorganized style, her prose comes alive when she describes family members, such as her domineering grandmother, whom she called ""Mother"" and who advised her to get out of Pipe Shop if she wanted to succeed. She also recalls the importance of learning to read as well as the influence of the black church on her upbringing. Though she felt estranged from her father after she found out he was unfaithful to her mother, McDowell's recognition of the humiliations he suffered at the hands of his white employees is powerful and haunting. (Jan.)
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