When All the World Was Young: A Memoir

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9781582345253: When All the World Was Young: A Memoir

The author deemed "a national treasure" by the Philadelphia Inquirer finally tells her own story, with this sharp and atmospheric memoir of a postwar American childhood.

Barbara Holland finally brings her wit and wisdom to the one subject her fans have been clamoring for for years: herself. When All the World Was Young is Holland's memoir of growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1940s and 50s, and is a deliciously subversive, sensitive journey into her past. Mixing politics (World War II, Senator McCarthy) with personal meditations on fatherhood, mothers and their duties, and "the long dark night of junior high school," Holland gives readers a unique and sharp-eyed look at history as well as hard-earned insight into her own life. A shy, awkward girl with an overbearing stepfather and a bookworm mother, Holland surprises everyone by growing up into the confident, brainy, successful writer she is today. Tough, funny, and nostalgic yet unsentimental, When All the World Was Young is a true pleasure to read.

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About the Author:

Barbara Holland is the author of fourteen previous books, including Gentlemen's Blood, Hail to the Chiefs, and They Went Whistling, and has written for Smithsonian, Glamour, Playboy, the Utne Reader, Redbook, Seventeen, and the Washington Post, among many others. She lives on a mountain in the Virginia Blue Ridge.

From Publishers Weekly:

Holland has enjoyed a prolific writing career--14 celebrated books, including Gentlemen's Blood, and essays in a wide range of periodicals--and her autobiography is appropriately impressive. For it isn't just the idiosyncratic story of one brilliantly observant girl growing up in WWII-era Washington, D.C.; it's also an authentic history of that time, made enjoyable by its humor and honesty. Plucky little Barbara moves through the world with insatiable curiosity about gender roles ("Never was a woman between eighteen and eighty seen in a chair"), patriotic duties ("Why we were sent to the cafeteria for a pretend air raid but sent home for a real one is another mystery") and the unique cruelty of children ("Children sympathize only with animals"). Even as the neglected stepdaughter of an abusive patriarch, Holland never victimizes herself. Instead, she finds strength in her socialist grandmother's political rants, the library books she feverishly consumed as a youngster and the unlikely haven of a downtown department store where her mother installed window displays. Holland's deadpan chapter titles--"The Chairs & Domestic Habits of Fathers Are Explored, & Nick Is Born"--are just a taste of her unsentimental and witty approach; in the conclusion, she describes herself: "I am a writer. Not a famous writer, just a plain writer." Deathly afraid of ostentation, Holland sneaks in profundity, and the result is a delight. (Mar.)
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