The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story

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9780395671702: The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story

Wil Haygood's memoir of his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, is an uplifting and unsparing celebration of the ties that bind all loving American families. The lives of the Haygood clan - grandmother a hotel cook, mother a nightlife-loving waitress, father mostly absent, one brother a legendary pimp, the other a star-crossed dreamer, sisters whose fates included very little disposable income - were intertwined with that of Mount Vernon Avenue, a seductive street of shops, juke joints, and speakeasies at the epicenter of Columbus's black community. Wil loved that avenue. Gifted and ambitious, he eventually found his first reporting terrain there, writing for the local paper, The Call & Post, while the first waves of urban renewal began to shake and shift the city of his childhood. Haygood tells here of his early passions: his fierce love for his restless mother, his enthusiasm for fishing in the Olentangy River, his adolescent love of basketball, which drove him to ride buses surreptitiously

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Review:

The bare facts suggest the author's family was a textbook case of African-American dysfunctionalism: his parents divorced in 1954 after three years and five children; two of his brothers were in trouble with the law; and two of his sisters had illegitimate children. But they emerge as flesh-and-blood individuals in Haygood's moving narrative, which chronicles his flight away from poverty in Columbus, Ohio, toward college and a career in journalism, even as it acknowledges unbreakable links to kin and the past. The unadorned prose seethes with emotion that is all the more powerful for being suppressed.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Here is an unsentimental family memoir that also elegizes Mt. Vernon Avenue, a mile-and-a-quarter strip that once saw its best days as the heartbeat of Columbus, Ohio's African-American community in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Haygood, a Boston Globe reporter, is the author of two previous books, including an admired 1993 biography of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., King of the Cats. This book, an account of ``the common Burkes, the holding-on Haygoods,'' documents a sprawling urban, working-class African-American family with southern rural roots. These are people who juggle multiple jobs and scrimp to buy homes and to dress with style on Saturday night and Sunday morning. In 1968, as Haygood is entering adolescence, his spirited mother, Elvira, moves her brood from her parents' ramshackle house to a new, three-acre federal housing complex on the other side of town, closer to the glitter of Mt. Vernon Avenue's nightlife, where she too often drifts in search of glamour beyond her workaday world. The lure of the streets and easy living poses a constant threat to the Haygood siblings, but even when they succumb, some of them find a redemptive path through faith, family, and grit. What keeps Wil on his upwardly mobile path is a devotion to basketball. Ironically, his athletic skills are marginal, but he has the shrewdness to transfer to a more affluent and academically stronger high school, where he makes the team. To protect his eligibility to play sports, he gets himself into a federally funded summer enrichment program. Such improvisational efforts result in a scholarship to Miami University of Ohio. After graduation, a stint on the local black weekly newspaper, whose offices anchored the business community of Mt. Vernon Avenue, sets him on his eventual career course. With an unpretentious eloquence and humor, Haygood shows a deft ability to convey complex lives, a past era, and a memorable place. (20 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright 1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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