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Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century

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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  114 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
An Italian immigrant family clings together. A Polish immigrant family breaks apart. From these backgrounds emerges an American family--a staunchly Catholic U.S. Marine Corps father, an emotionally effusive mother, an Oliver North son, a Hillary Clinton daughter, a mentally ill sister, a jock brother, a lesbian rocker, and a gay male activist--all of whom struggle to find ...more
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Published July 14th 2010 by John Paul Godges (first published July 4th 2010)
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Caren
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This sprawling book is a love letter to Mr. Godges' family, but also a remarkably sensitive and intuitive history of the ordinary American in the twentieth century. I can imagine this book being a wonderful supplement to a textbook in a high school American history class. I only wish someone in my family had written such a book before our family's stories were lost to time. And lost those ordinary stories certainly are without someone like Mr Godges to record them. Mr. Godges comes to the t ...more
Dree
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir readers; those interested in immigrant history
I requested this book in the First Reads program because 1) I read a lot of memoirs and 2) my dad's side is Italian also. It turns out that many of the places he author and/or his family was, I have been. Kind of weird.

Godges managed to organize this book so it flows--from past to present, oldest to youngest. And it works, even with 8 separate stories. And I truly appreciate that he never argues or implies that his family is somehow unique or better than others--they may have been raised to beli
...more
Melissa
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a Good Reads first read. I'm not even 100 pages in and already, I'm in love with this book. It's well written and has a way of making history tangible. From the beginning, the experiences people are going through make the story seem unreal, and yet, it is.

Update: March 11, 2012 - Finally Finished
I've been trying to figure out how to put into words just how this book reached me as a reader, as a human being, as part of a dysfunctional family. Most people shy away from what
...more
Clytee
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is self-published, and the reason I knew about it was reading about it on a genealogy blog. This man has written an amazing family history of his parents and siblings and self. He is my age, his life unfolded in the same American eras mine did, his parents in the same era my parents did. It is an American history, it is a brave disclosure of a big family with lots of challenges, and it is a fantastic family history. It's about immigrants (we all descend from immigrants) and immigrating ...more
Dolly
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of American history
I won this book as a first-reads copy on Goodreads book giveaways and I am so glad that I did. The book is not short - it has 532 pages - but it encompasses about 100 years of family history and it's a fast read, so it's not too long, either. I liked the way the book was laid out, too. Part one was about the grandparents' journey, Part two was about the parents' journey and the author and his siblings' childhood years, Part three was about the tumultuous 80s and 90s, where the family discovers t ...more
Danie
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir lovers, american history buffs, random non fiction readers
Honestly, the original reason why I wanted to read this book was the cover picture. The young man standing in front of a US CCC truck. I'm not exactly sure why, but when I first saw it it peaked my interest.

Of course, that was only the original reason and the book itself wound up mightily surpassing the photo on its cover.

I have nothing in common with the author. Both side of my family have been here in the US since before there was technically a US of A, whereas the author's family was one or e
...more
Carol
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you so much, Mr. Godges for writing this book. Your book seems like a song of America. There were lyrics to songs that I hadn't sung for so long. When I came to them, I sang along. Both sides of my family have been here for hundreds of years, yet so many of your family's experiences are mine too.
I loved how you told the story of one your mother's side of the family and then your father's and finally focused on your own immediate family one by one. Your mother could have been my child hood
...more
Rick
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book and not just in the title. The author has done an excellent job of telling the story of his family and their journey to the American dream. It is well written and an excellent read. I have enjoyed every page of it so far. Since it was in Minnesota and I was in Arizona it has taken me a while since getting back to be able to read it since one of my children found it first, she has also enjoyed it very much. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the immigrants th ...more
Laura
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I think baby-boomers would love this book.
Recommended to Laura by: I won it on Goodreads
I would like to acknowledge winning this book as a giveaway on Goodreads. The author shipped it to me very quickly with a personal note and autograph. I am very impressed and will be starting to read it very shortly.

I finished this book and loved every page of it!! This author mingled his personal family history with actual historical events and coordinated them perfectly with interesting cultural information making this enjoyable and entertaining. This book was impossible to put down and so obv
...more
Donna
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I so ejoyed reading this book. As a novice genealogist, I've often thought about how I would write the story of my family and this book is an example of a great way to do it. John covered all the joys and heartaches and struggles of a family with differing attitudes but strong beliefs. I really liked the book.
Beth Benko
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great story about immigration in the early 20th century. The author and his siblings were born in the middle of the 1900's -- weren't a lot of us -- and the tales of their growing to adulthood echo some of mine.
Oldroses
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the reasons a lot of people give for not reading books on history is that they are not relevant to their lives. I have to agree with them that most history books are boring recitations of dates, wars, treaties and the important figures of those eras accompanied by dry analyses. It is difficult to imagine what life would have been like for ordinary people during those times.

John Paul Godges offers a different take on history. He writes about 20th century history from the point of view of h
...more
Elizabeth
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century from Goodreads firstread giveaway. I was so excited to win this book and as soon as I received it I started immediately. I absolutely loved reading about the story of John Godges family in America and what influenced them. This is one book that once I started reading I had a very difficult time putting down.

The book begins with the author's maternal great grandfathers journey to America which in turn led to his grandfather Serafino imm
...more
Megan
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans, baby-boomers, history fans
What does it mean to be American? I am American because my German-Polish-Ukrainian (“and an itty-bitty-bit-of-Dutch”) self was born in Pennsylvania and not Odessa or Krakow or Dresden. This is because my great-great-grandparents rustled up some courage and inspiration to travel to this land of opportunity, whether leaving with relief or forced to make sacrifices. I don’t know exactly who, where or when these events happened, but ‘Oh, Beautiful’ makes me want to find out!
This is an excellent boo
...more
Brandy
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. I expected it to read much like a history book, but it is so much more personal than that. I am not sure that it was more special because it was a Goodreads giveaway, but I do not think so. From the beginning the story grabbed me. The author states that this introspective of his family was a way for him to learn what America was, and who Americans were and are. He defines what it means to be American in a way that many people, I think, have forgotten--or maybe never really ...more
Rosemary
WOW - This doesn't read like a memoir, it reads like a novel. Thanks to the included photographs and the vibrant writing, as I read I could see the author's family in my brain just like a movie in front of me. My heart really feels for this family, because they are so real and beautifully portrayed. At times I wanted to scream at them, other times I wanted to cry with them, and still others I wanted to hang out with them or sit at their dinner table or swim at the beach with them. I finished thi ...more
Laura
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book thru Library Thing and I am so grateful that I was able to get an autographed copy. I started this book and finished it in one day; I literally could not put it down. The author is one of six very different siblings and the book covers his family ancestry and his childhood. It reminded me of Forrest Gump in a way, showing the family dynamic in relation to the events that were going on in the world at that time. I felt almost as if I was there with the author and really liked his ...more
Stephanie
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
I received this book from one of the goodreads.com giveaways. I really enjoyed traveling through time with the author and his life experiences. I was fascinated by all of the details he shared about his family prior to coming to America. It reminded me of the stories I know about my own past. Being a descendant of war torn Germany, with little formal record of the past, I wish I had as much knowledge about my family beginnings as the author has of his. What a gift to have a full understanding of ...more
Kate
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book really made me feel like I was listening to a close relative tell stories from our family's past.

John Godges' candid narrative captures the emotion and perspective of each of his grandparents, parents and siblings. Like any large family there are always different personalities and unique stories to go with each. John does a great job of allowing each family member's story to be told in an unbiased manner, and really opens up when writing his own chapter as well. I really appre
...more
Stuart Hargreaves
THE COVER OF THE BOOK WAS VERY APPETISING AND THE NARRATIVE DID NOT LET IT DOWN. I HAVE NOT READ ANYONE ELSES REVIEWS AND FEEL I PROBABLY COULD NOT GIVE A REVIEW TO GET THE BOOK FULL JUSTICE. HOWEVER HERE GOES. THE FIRST HALF OF THE BOOK WAS WONDERFUL, I FOUND MYSELF AT TIMES COMPARING WITH MY LIFE IN THE 50,S, YES WE COLLECTED COAL ON THE EMBANKMENTS OF RAILWAYS, A CHICKEN WAS TREAT PERHAPS ONCE AYEAR. REPLACE TANGERINE WITH A PEACH WHICH WE GOT EVERY HARVEST FESTIVAL AT CHURCH. THE PAGES JUST ...more
Sherilyn
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Written by the son of immigrants, a devout roman catholic and a seasoned journalit, Oh Beautiful is the amazing memoir of a 20th century family.

The story is told from the perspecitive of the youngest son John but details the lives of his parents and siblings. It is rich in detail, historical research and a senitivity to time, place and issues that have impacted life in america and made us who and what we are. The book was mesmerizing;
...more
Lynn Palermo
Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century is an epic portrayal of 100 years of family history mixed with 100 years of American history. There are so many wonderful things I can say about this memoir written by John Paul Godges. I related to the author's family narrative on many levels.

For my full review visit The Armchair Genealogist

Susan
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was an interesting read because I married someone whose grandparents came from Italy and Poland and were Catholic so I could relate to the story. It was also talked about controversial but very real problems that occur in families then and today!
Ellen
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the best family history I have read ever. It's not an ordinary family, and the author does a beautiful job of telling the story.
Catherine Stickann
I won this book as a first-reads copy on Goodreads book giveaways. I want to thank the author for giving me this lovely book and the opportunity to read his family story. Because I received this book this way I felt I owed the author an exceptional and fair read.

I would actually like to give the first part of this book 5 stars, as the story of the immigrant families is well written, very moving and very much a page turner. The author did a lot of family research and research of the times. He has
...more
Christoph Fischer
"Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century" by John Paul Godges was recommended to me by a friend and I am so glad she did.
The book has a lot to give but for me one of the main attractions is the huge arsenal of historical detail. Godges describes the roots of his family in Italy and Poland, the reasons why members of the respective families decided to try their fortune in the US, how they and their kins lived and how they got the money for the journey. Godges' ancestors arrive in t
...more
Steven
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as part of the First Reads program. I have looked forward to reading this book as I finished a few other reading projects.

The first part of the book details how the authors Grandparents immigrated to the US from Italy and Poland. The author paints a good picture of how families were affected on both sides of the ocean by immigration. It is hard to imagine the communication difficulties that people faced in that time. Immigration usually meant that you would never again see
...more
Billie
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book free from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads Program

This is a very compelling book. It’s a detailed story of a family looking for their future in America while coming from different cultures.

In more or less chronological order the author goes through the trials and tribulations of coming to America and fitting in while keeping the cultural attributes that define who you are.

The family participates in everything that is happening in America in the 20th century in
...more
Kate
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a story that will resonant with every American. Godges recounts his family story through three generations. From Italian and Polish immigrants in the early 1900s to the stories of himself and his siblings growing up in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. There is a lot to like about this book. Each character's story exemplifies some quintessential part of the American experience and when brought together tells not only the story of changing events and opinions in America during the previous c ...more
Alice
I received this book free thanks to Goodreads!

This book was a good examination of American culture in the 20th century as seen through one family. I think the author tried a little too hard to pitch it as a "universal" story that somehow fits all Americans. Each family has a unique story. A non-Catholic family would see things differently, as would a Mexican-American family, etc. That said, I think the point is well made that we can all have our differences of lifestyle, opinion, and beliefs and
...more
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Greetings! I'm the author of Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century, a courageous family memoir that explores what it means to be American. For my day job, I'm a research communications analyst at the RAND Corporation, one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions. In the 1990s, I was editor of New City/Pueblo Nuevo, a multilingual magazine for families and communities w ...more
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