Tad's Reviews > Life is So Good

Life is So Good by George Dawson
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's review
Mar 12, 2009

it was ok

This book was terrible. There were VERY few redeeming characteristics for me to take away from this book. In a way though, I can almost understand why so many reviewers (all of whom were White) liked this biography so much. After all, he WAS on Oprah. And he’s so agreeable, quiet and docile which paved the way for him to survive for over 100 years. The book is technically an autobiography but there is a disconnection between the story of this man’s life and how the story is told. The co-author simply takes to many liberties in language/dialect to keep me connected to Dawson’s life. The co-author clearly changes Dawson’s words to make the book more readable and thereby makes the book less authentic.

The story is of George Dawson who, as a child, witnessed a horrible murder of a Black man by an angry White mob. The man was falsely accused of raping a White girl and this experience basically sets Dawson on a life long course fearing White people. Most of his life was spent wandering aimlessly around the country yet he was repeatedly compelled to return to his hometown where everything began. Throughout his life he questioned almost nothing and lacked a basic curiosity about life (at least through most of the book). His early years were especially perilous for a Black man in America. During those times it was important to measure your behavior versus the White world view in order to protect yourself against a racist backlash. But that doesn't tell the whole story of the times as evidenced by many books (autobiographies and otherwise) from which to choose. There is Frederick Douglas (My Bondage & My Freedom) and his example of a will to learn & read that wouldn’t be broken despite slavery. You can also look to Douglas’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas for an example of great leadership and inspiration.

Many of the reviewers saw Dawson's aimless meanderings around the country on box cars with hobos as a living example of what is good in people. I find tremendous value in his work ethic, get the job done! But I wonder how many of these reviewers would feel the same as Dawson in the face of constant racism. What they would do living with a daily threat to their life and safety. The book doesn’t set out to be a lesson in freedom or in one man’s fight for human dignity and equality. He didn’t even believe he deserved equality, even when there were examples of it in his travels (Cincinnati, Mexico, Canada). There are innumerable examples of African American men and women who fought against racism and bigotry and stood up against injustice, sometimes paying with their lives. Throughout history, bigots and racists have maintained their power by relying on those they've oppressed to remain ignorant. It's that ignorance that I see throughout this book. If you want to read about character, courage and dignity amongst African Americans throughout the 20th Century, you can start with Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, James Meridith, WEB DuBois, Maynard Jackson, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Adam Clayton Powell, Stokely Carmichael, or Benjamin Mays.

You can also read:
‘Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights – Black Power Movement”, or
‘Freedom’s Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War’
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Reading Progress

March 12, 2009 – Shelved
March 12, 2009 –
page 46
March 14, 2009 –
page 114
43.85% "The jacket suggests the book offers lessons in living. I have not yet seen this. I hope to get to these lessons soon."
March 16, 2009 –
page 189
72.69% "Not getting any better. Story doesn't live up to the jacket."
Started Reading
March 17, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike This is well researched, eloquent criticism. Thanks for writing this, you've convinced me to find a better memoir.

message 2: by Nikka (last edited Feb 20, 2010 05:30AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nikka Your description of the book is very accurate. I couldn't agree with you more.

Matt Hmm.. I somewhat agree, Although I do think George questioned things, he just dealt with it by accepting thats the way things were. I certainly can't judge him for that, as I have never been up against that kind of persecution. Ahhh the wisdom to know the difference between the things we can change and the things we cant. I still enjoyed his story.

message 4: by Christine (new)

Christine To compare George Dawson to your list that began with the inimitable Nelson Mandela is confusing to me. George Dawson’s life is not that of a historic legend. He wasn’t, as with those super extraordinary black men and women in your list, someone who changed the world through their activism, their teachings, their powerful charisma, their genius, their life work. He simply did something extraordinary near the end of his life – a personal achievement that became public because of the unique timing of it, i.e., a time when most people are preparing for death or are already quietly dying, and for this he has understandably inspired others.

Matt Cool word.. (Inimitable)

message 6: by Tad (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tad @Matt I like the word inimitable as well. @Christine, I don't need to tell you that you can find inspiration anywhere you please. It appears you found some in this book where I able to find any. Upon reflection, I feel my thoughts were expressed pretty clearly and I see no reason to change them now.

You and I simply see this book differently. My comments related to Mr. Mandela and others ("If you want to read about character, courage and dignity amongst African Americans throughout the 20th Century...") is about identifying where I personally find inspiration. I can't remember how I came to read this book but it sets the reader up to be inspired and I was not. As I mentioned in my review, history has shown us many people who have taken a very different path than Mr. Dawson when faced with racism, segregation and hardships. In my feeble attempt to identify an embarrassingly small few of those people I must not have made my point clearly enough, which I hope now to have done.

Melissa Russoniello Maybe you wish he were a different person, but don't disrespect his story. He is a survivor in a time that didn't have the freedom you do to capitalize white and black and get a way with it. I appreciate his experience. His story is amazing because despite the racism he maintains his character. Many people today could and should take a lesson from him.

Chris Irvin Thank you Melissa. George Dawson is my great grandfather and you have said quite simply what needs to be said. My great grandfather was a simple man with an amazing heart. He did not go out in activism to change the world. He changed by showing people what you can get out of life by living in a non show casing way.

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