cover image The Last Train North

The Last Train North

Clifton L. Taulbert. Council Oak Books, $16.95 (220pp) ISBN 978-0-933031-62-3

A sense of optimism infuses this winning illustrated memoir, which begins as a black youth in the Mississippi Delta dreams of taking the train north to make his fortune. The trip and the station from which so many of his neighbors embark on the same odyssey take on mythic proportions, and Taulbert ( Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored ) makes the station's closing a metaphor for the disappearance of a romantic dream of the urban North. Although his narrative occasionally looks back to his childhood, it lavishes the most descriptive care on the 1960s, when Taulbert heads north to settle in St. Louis, gets his first job and then goes further north still, to join the Air Force and serve on a base in Maine. So much gives pleasure here: the rich sense of time, place and gracious living in a southern black community; the loving descriptions of quilting bees, creamy sweet potato pies and beautiful guest rooms; the unforgettable portraits of kith and kin. The sweetness of this young man, so beloved by his family, comes across wth a warmth that will endear him to readers as well. (July)