Saturday, July 29, 2017

Riding the Rails (Errol Lincoln Uys)

Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression
Errol Lincoln Uys
T. E. Winter and Sons
Nonfiction, History
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: During the 1930's, hundreds of thousands of American boys and girls criss-crossed the country aboard trains. Some sought adventure. Some sought jobs. Some merely sought a way to survive another day in the middle of a country devastated by the Great Depression and the crop-destroying Dust Bowl. These are the stories of just a few survivors of those days, a time that brought despair and hope, shame and pride - and, for most, an enduring connection to the country and its people.

REVIEW: When most modern people think of hoboes, they think of the old cartoon caricature of the scraggly-bearded drunkard with the handkerchief bundle on a stick, a lazy ne'er-do-well vagrant and beggar. In truth, most hoboes were anything but lazy, fighting daily struggles for survival against starvation and law enforcement as they traveled in search of jobs that were as likely to be mirages (or, worse, traps) as real opportunities. Their motivations for riding the rails were as diverse as the people they encountered. This book switches between first-person narratives by those who lived as hoboes and chapters that establish their existence in the greater context of history: the figures and facts that led to this mass migration of underage Americans, what they were leaving and what they found, and how the programs of Roosevelt's New Deal (particularly the Civilian Conservation Corps) helped pull them, and the nation, back together. It lost a half-star for the presentation, which seemed haphazard and failed to present its material as effectively as it could have. Still, these are stories that deserve to be told. On the whole, it's a decent portrait of a bygone age, with moments and lessons and truths that are still relevant in today's world.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown) - My Review
Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) - My Review
The Journey of Natty Gann- Amazon DVD link

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