The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, as Told by Themselves

Hamilton Holt, Other Routledge $0 (228p) ISBN 978-0-415-90183-3
Journalist Holt (1872-1951) invented a term for the brief turn-of-the-century oral histories in this volume: ``lifelets.'' Originally published in his progressive magazine, The Independent , and first collected in book form in 1906, the 20 profiles range from that of a Swedish farmer who prospers in Minnesota and notes that ``one thing I like about this country is that you do not have to be always taking off your hat to people,'' to that of an embittered woman who finds that ``everything is forgiven in the South but color.'' The so-called undistinguished Americans generally speak in their own words; at times their writing is rough-hewn, even mundane, but informed with the rousing emotions of immigrants trying to succeed in a new land, of native-born Americans struggling against the prejudices of their fellow countrymen. The book recreates a bygone era by serving up the stuff of day-to-day life: a detailed weekly budget of $3.92 for two young girls; the humiliation of a Japanese who can't peel potatoes fast enough to please a cook; the whipping of a Hungarian who has been coerced into laboring at an oppressive lumber camp. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-0-415-90184-0
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