Life Is So Good

Life Is So Good

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One man’s extraordinary journey through the twentieth century and how he learned to read at age 98
“Things will be all right. People need to hear that. Life is good, just as it is. There isn’t anything I would change about my life.”—George Dawson
In this remarkable book, George Dawson, a slave’s grandson who learned to read at age 98 and lived to the age of 103, reflects on his life and shares valuable lessons in living, as well as a fresh, firsthand view of America during the entire sweep of the twentieth century. Richard Glaubman captures Dawson’s irresistible voice and view of the world, offering insights into humanity, history, hardships, and happiness. From segregation and civil rights, to the wars and the presidents, to defining moments in history, George Dawson’s description and assessment of the last century inspires readers with the message that has sustained him through it all: “Life is so good. I do believe it’s getting better.”
“A remarkable autobiography . . . . the feel-good story of the year.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“A testament to the power of perseverance.”—USA Today
Life Is So Good is about character, soul and spirit. . . . The pride in standing his ground is matched—maybe even exceeded—by the accomplishment of [George Dawson’s] hard-won education.”—The Washington Post
“Eloquent . . . engrossing . . . an astonishing and unforgettable memoir.”—Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613364652
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 06/28/2001
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 5.88(w) x 8.16(h) x 0.85(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

George Dawson lives in Dallas, Texas.

Richard Glaubman is an elementary school teacher. He lives outside Seattle, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

Wanting to enjoy every moment, I stared at the hard candies in the different wooden barrels. The man behind the counter was white. I could tell he didn't like me, so I let him see the penny in my hand.

"Take your time, son," my father said with a grin. "You did a man's work this year."

Putting his hand on my shoulder, he said to the store clerk, "He's all of ten years, but the boy crushed as much cane as I did." Since the age of four, I had always been working to help the family.

I don't know if it was pride from Father's words or the pleasure from a piece of hard candy that beckoned, but I felt so good I thought I would burst. I had been thinking of those hard candies since my father woke me before daybreak and said, "Hitch the wagon. We gonna take some ribbon syrup into town and you comin'."

When I went back inside, the stove was going and Ma had a pot of mush cooling. We ate quiet-like so as not to wake the little ones that were asleep on the other side of the room.

I was happy to see they was still sleeping for it was uncommon to spend the day alone with my father. We never had much time to talk and I just liked to be with him.

Two barrels of cane syrup were tied down in the wagon. We sat up front. My father clucked toward the mule. I wanted to tell him that I was glad he was taking me and it was going to be just him and me together all day. Trouble was, I didn't know how to say that in words. So under the shadow of my straw hat, I just looked over at him.

Solid is what I would say. He took care of us. We had potatoes and carrots buried in the straw and salt pork hangin' from the rafters. We was free of worries. Papa was a good provider. Someday I would be just like him.

Must have been a couple of hours toward town when my father nudged me. He handed me the reins and unwrapped some burlap. I took a piece of cornbread with a big dab of lard on it. When I commenced to eat, he started talking.

"With this ribbon syrup, we be out of debt and have some left for trading. We gonna have seeds for cotton, some new banty chicks, and the fruit trees that are gonna bear fruit next year. No one has the fever and we all be healthy.

"Life is good." And with a grin, he added, "I do believe it's getting better." I liked it when Papa talked to me as a man.

The morning haze had long ago burned off. The wagon stirred up a lot of dust that kind of settled over everything in a nice, smooth blanket. It was good for the mule as the dust had a way of keeping the flies off. Nothing else was said for the next hour, till we came around the last stand of trees and to the rise above Marshall.

In those days, I had in my mind that Marshall was maybe about the biggest and the best place there could ever be. The hardware store had big windows that I liked to look in. I had never been inside since I knew they didn't appreciate black folks with no money. I was partial to the general store, but I liked to walk by the livery stable too. Once a man gave me two bits to rub down and watch his horse for the afternoon. It was 1908, and I hadn't yet seen a car. I had heard of them, but nobody I knew owned one. Papa said that they didn't do too well when the rains came and the roads was deep in mud. Besides, they scared the horses. Mostly, I just liked seeing all the folks from the big ranches and the little farms like ours that was out on the boardwalk.

The cafe and the barbershop was whites only, but I knew a boy that worked in the cafe. And I knew some folks that shined shoes at the barbershop. I liked to look in those windows too.

We never had no cause to go into the post office. But I pictured that one day someone would say there was a letter waiting for me. I would walk past all the folks sitting in the town square beneath the big oak tree. When I was inside, I would say, "I'm George Dawson. I'm here to get my letter." I don't know when that was gonna happen but maybe someday it would. Marshall was a busy place and good things could just happen. It was the county seat and that had to count for something too. At least, that's what I thought then.

But at that moment, in the general store, when my father told me that I could do a man's work, anything seemed possible. I remember everything. I saw the white man frowning, my father grinning at me, and those barrels of candy to choose from. I also remember everything my ears told me that day.

As I picked up a piece of peppermint, I heard a commotion from the street. My father's gaze followed mine. It was dark and cool in the store and the hot light through the doors caused a confusing picture. There were people running, harsh words, and a lot of shouting. Papa set down a kerosene lamp he was inspecting on the counter and run to the door. I followed with the counterman behind me.

At first, out on the boardwalk, in the bright sunlight, I couldn't see the faces on the street. I heard Pete's voice before I saw him.

"It wasn't me. I didn't touch her," Pete screamed. "Lord, let me go."

I would of backed off from what I saw, but by then we was crowded up against the rail. First time in my life I saw the white folks and the colored folks together in a crowd.

It scared me. There was no more frown on the face of the white counterman that was beside of me. His lips were set in a smile. Hate was in his eyes. Across the street, in front of the barbershop, I saw three colored men frozen in place. The white folks surrounding them had red, twisted faces.

They were screaming. I had done nothing, but I felt them screaming at me.

"Kill the nigger boy, kill the nigger. They can't be messing with our white women."

Six men had Pete by the arms. The toes of his boots dragged in the dust. His face looked up to the sky as he screamed, "I didn't touch her."

I knew Pete and knew that was so. I shouted, "Pete, I'll tell-"

My father's hand clamped over my mouth. His other arm crushed the air right out of my chest. I read his eyes and then he slowly let me go without saying a word. I knew it wasn't so, though. The Riley's cook had heard the whole thing; she just kept on working in the kitchen and watched Betty Jo and her father. She was right there, but they didn't even notice she was alive.

She was scared about what they said and I heard her talking to my mama about it. Betty Jo had gotten herself in trouble. Folks already knew that she had a thing for one of the Jackson boys and was spending a lot of time with him. When her daddy found out she was with a child, she had a whipping coming sure enough. Her daddy was steaming mad and of short temper anyhow.

"Who's the boy that done this to you?" her daddy shouted. Sally looked at the belt in his hand. She was crying but wouldn't say nothing. She was scared, and afraid to tell the boy's name, because she figured that her daddy just might go off and kill him.

"Well, if you did this 'cause you wanted to, a good beating will teach you right."

She cried even harder then.

"Well, you got it coming unless maybe this happened against your will."

Her crying slowed and seeing a way out of a beating she listened close.

"Is that what happened?" he said slowly.

Scared as she was, Betty Jo could tell that the safe answer was yes. Not wanting to tell a whole lie, she just nodded her head.

"Damn. Was it that Jackson boy from across the ridge?"

Betty Jo, she loved him, or at least thought she did, shook her head no.

Her daddy looked at her hard. His face turned angry and he said, "Was it our hired boy, Pete? That worthless, lazy nigger! Did he rape you? Did he do this?"

To each question, she just nodded in the smallest way. The tears still flowed, but he threw the belt down and stormed out the door.

"There is one nigger gonna pay for this."

Pete was seventeen and the hired boy around their farm; picking cotton, cutting cane, chores like that. He was a good worker. But he was smart and he knew enough not to even look at a white woman.

I knew Pete since we were little. He was older than me, but he treated me well. Pete was the one who swum out and saved Jimmy Blake at the swimming hole. Jimmy had smacked his head on the corner of the raft when he was showing off for us little kids. Everyone was afraid to swim out that far, but he done it. Pete, he would do anything for anybody.

As I was growing up, I didn't have any toys, but I did still own a baseball that Pete had given me a year earlier. We had been at the pasture of a Sunday afternoon last summer. I had helped to cut the field. A team from Tyler had come over to play some of our boys from Marshall. We didn't have a real stadium, but we would go out and mow the pasture, and set up table for a big Sunday feast and get together afterward. Pete played shortstop. He was good too. If you wanted fast, you should have seen Pete run the bases.

The score was tied and went to extra innings. In the eleventh Pete came up with a man on first, two outs. He took their pitcher full count. And then ... and then he almost hit a cow. It would of been a home run if we had fences. As it was, he got a triple and drove in the winning run. I cheered and cheered for our Marshall boys, especially for Pete.

I was proud of him when the team gave him the game ball. He gave me that ball and said, "You practice with it, George. You'll be a hitter someday too." I was awful pleased but I could barely mutter thank you when my mama nudged me. Pete was my hero.

The colored couldn't play in the big leagues, but if they could I know Pete would of made it.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A remarkable autobiography....The feel-good story of the year. —The Christian Science Monitor

Dawson has become a literary hero, a testament to the power of perseverance. —USA Today

Customer Reviews

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Life Is So Good 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 133 reviews.
Seeker-Pat More than 1 year ago
This man is a true hero demonstrating that it's never too late to enhance your life. For those who enjoy the mix of history and inspiration, I also recommend "Having Our Say". For a newer book with a whole different inspirational twist from another active centenarian, definitely check out Elsa's Own Blue Zone. She is a fantastic role model for all ages. The book is very entertaining and full of surprises. Both books have websites you can easily find with a quick search, too, for more information.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This simple man...meaning uncomplicated, has so much wisdom to share. It warmed my heart and gave me lots to think what is really important. Put this book on your reading list.
Misty Wagner-Grillo More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just adore this book. It will make you smile.
DoozleDorf More than 1 year ago
This book is full of wisdom and knowledge! GET THIS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whether you're highly educated, beginning your schooling, or a returning student, Mr. Dawson is an inspiration. This should be mandatory reading for high-school students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this. Most interesting history lesson I have ever had.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is written by a teacher who goes and meets a man who, at the age of 98, learned to read and had been going strong all his life. This is the story of George Dawson and his life through the 20th century, and I must say it really makes you appreciate that it takes very little to make life so good. It's not how much stuff you have or if you have the latest clothes or electronics, it shows that family, self-respect, love, and faith really make for a truly happy life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of my favorites. This shows his journey through life and it is well written.
ProfessorMS More than 1 year ago
This book is not only valuable as a biography of what a man must do to survive, it is a history of ignorance and intolerance in this country. It also teaches us how wonderful it is to be literate, to be able to live a life with the power of the written word. Imagine what your life would be if you could not read. Would you be able to have the courage to live the life Mr. Dawson did? This book is vital to understanding how blessed anyone is who can read, and as Frederick Douglas said, once you learn to read, you will be forever free. Mr. Dawson is someone I admire, fo he understood, just like his father did, that this life is good, and things happen as they are meant to. It would be wonderful if most people had this level of wisdom in their minds and hearts. If you love to read, then read this book so you can begin to appreciate the skill you take for granted each day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My grandmother will be turning 100 this year. Reading this book made me think alot about her and her wonderful life. Mr. Dawson offered some timeless lessons for humanity as told through his life experiences. Everyone who reads this will grow in some way and realize that life is good.
LP79 More than 1 year ago
This was a selection for my book club and I absolutely loved it. I grew up in Texas and recognizing the towns in the book gave it a little extra. I commend George on the wonderful outlook he held on life throughout all of his struggles. After reading this, you will appreciate a whole lot more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the summer reading books for ninth grade. It was ok. You really won't find much inspiration or keys ti a good life or longevity here. Just a hard working man who never had much but worked hard to support his family. Toward the end there was something that hit home. Be g,happy with ehat you have. It's wanting more, and more often than not, more than you can afford thst causes worry. Smart man. Life seemed alot harder but also alot simplier back then.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a 98 yr.old, or a 9 yr. old he showed tremendous courage,knowledge and common sence not seen in most adults, teenagers or politicians, even with their education. Learning to read at 98 and to continue for his G E D. . What a person!
HIstorygeekNYC More than 1 year ago
This book is beautiful! George Dawson is an inspiration to everyone. He tells the story of his life in an honest and simple way, which brought tears to my eyes. As an African American who has lived long enough to witness important changes in our country's history, his accounts are an important resource in teaching our children, and many adults, another side to the story that we don't read in our history books. Mr. Dawson told his story with no bitterness, in spite of the fact that he lived through very difficult times. It makes one stop to wonder what we are complaining about, when there are so many wonderful things we should be thankful for! Everyone should read this book. As a Social Studies teacher I think it should be used as a resource in the new national standards.
Janice Dudley More than 1 year ago
I wish this book was longer! Its was soo good and i recomended it to all my friends with nooks! This is my favorite book i have ever read
ThinkingAhead More than 1 year ago
This book was very inspirational, and allowed me to do a self assessment on how I could better myself with everyday endeavors.
Freda Kelley More than 1 year ago
Great read. Good life lessons for any age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stories about injustice need to be told over and over as do stories about the Holocaust. It is a worthwhile book for teenagers and young adults who have no idea what it was like for black people in America not so many years ago. Mr. Dawson led a remarkable life and must be applauded for his accomplishments and ever present optimism. This was a book club selection and most of our members did not feel it was well written. I do not recommend it for adult book clubs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having taught reading to First graders for 38 years I was thrilled to know that we are never to old to learn. A beautiful story that every one should read and especially those people who need a little more encouragement to keep the chin up and to keep trying!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. This man's life is amazing. I loved hearing about all of the different events and situations that he had to go through. This man has a lot to teach to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
George Dawson was a fascinating man with so much knowledge to share. Although he had no formal education he could learn by just watching and doing. He was able to travel all around the western hemisphere meeting many people that were just drawn to him. George could not read or write and was able to cross the border into Canada and Mexico and interact with the people. It seemed that most people treated him well, and those that didn¿t would soon be converted by his strength, positive attitude, pride, and just the way he carried himself. George is a gift to this world. He is filled with so much history, knowledge and experiences, which tugs at the human emotions. He is a walking, talking encyclopedia. Everything we read is a reality for him. He is a great source of U.S. history, and reminds the world of a time most would like to forget and wish never existed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I definitely enjoyed traveling through words with Mr. Dawson to each and everyone of his physical and emotional locations. He reminded me over and over that simple is good thing when living the human experience. Nice read about a very decent man !!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is not only Mr. Dawson¿s ability to turn the other cheek and his being a really nice person under rigorously ascetic circumstances that makes this story remarkably inspiring. It is the wisdom that comes from Mr. Dawson¿s humility, and his humility that explains how to age gracefully by simply living simply. Also, Mr. Glaubman is to be commended for capturing Mr. Dawson¿s voice with astounding care. It felt like I had walked the journey with Mr. Dawson. To think that out of the bouquet of books I cradled in my arm that day, almost electing to hold off on `Life is So Good¿, that this book would turn out to be the best. A tremendous amount of resilience and electrifying character is associated with this story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read. Simple, yet so touching! I checked the book out from my library but enjoyed it so much that I bought the hardback book just to have. Wonderfully written.I also learned some things about life in the early 1900's. Please read won't be sorry.