3 out of 4 stars
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A Legacy Created: Memoir of a Boy from the South, by Dr. Thomas Benson III, is the autobiographical account of the author’s upbringing in rural South Carolina in the early 1970s. The picture the author paints of his childhood tells of slower, more innocent times. He and his friend Robbie compete to see who can pee or spit the farthest, and he goes fishing with a neighbor, Big Tom. He enjoys his Aunt Linnie’s home cooking.
This is no idyllic-childhood tale, however. As a young black boy in a predominantly white school, the author knew what it felt like to be treated differently because of his color. His learning difficulties only added to his problems, but he overcame these to become an academic and professional success. Dr. Benson is someone with strong religious faith, and God is mentioned at different points in his story. He has written his book in the hope that he can inspire others to overcome the obstacles and setbacks that they face in life.
For those of us who still prefer reading books the old-fashioned way, the look and feel of a book are important. I’m happy to report, therefore, that this book is beautifully produced and presented, so credit to the book’s publisher, Wisdom House Books. I also enjoyed the author’s simple, unadorned style of writing. He is an intelligent, reflective individual and his prose style mirrors that. He examines events that took place in his life and draws conclusions and morals from them. Several of the short chapters finish with a lesson learned. So, for example, one chapter ends with the lines: ‘Life is full of challenges that are unforeseen; therefore, we must learn to believe in ourselves and have the courage of a fighter.’ (Page 16) The tone and pacing of the writing are consistent throughout the book.
The flip side of such consistency, however, is that it can make it difficult to convey heightened emotion or passion at the appropriate time. In this book, for example, the author recounts painful memories of childhood struggle or humiliation in the same understated tone he uses to describe playing in cloth castles at home with his little sister. Even recalling times when he shed bitter tears, he does so in a way that doesn't quite reflect the moment. The effect of this, in my opinion, is to muffle the impact of what the author is telling us.
A different kind of understatement is evident when the author mentions some traumatic episodes but doesn’t explore them in any real depth. He writes that ‘Discrimination, bullying, racism, personal injury, and the loss of my son have drastically impacted my mind.’ (Page 101) The problem is that we aren’t really allowed to see just how much these things affected the author. They are referred to rather than explored. He notes, at one point, that, ‘The concept of a man doesn’t cry and that we should be tough has always dominated my life, and I think living by that motto has made me a nutshell.’ (Page 83) I think that motto runs through his writing like a watermark.
I am giving this book three out of four stars. It has been professionally produced and edited, and I found only two minor errors. It is a well-written book that is suitable for young adults and above. I recommend it to readers who enjoy autobiographies.
A Legacy Created: Memoir of a Boy from the South.
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