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Sunday, 17 December 2017

The cats and I had a rainy reading day.

Whose Names are Unknown by Sonora Babb could have (and in my opinion, should have) been published around the same time as The Grapes of Wrath.  It was rejected (after initial enthusiasm) because publishers felt that one book on the topic of migrant farmworkers was enough.  I am glad that Ms. Babb did live to finally see the book published decades later.  She wrote from experience of her life on a farm in the Oklahoma panhandle…

…and what she saw after the Depression and the Dust Bowl drove many residents to California.

I found the story to be more real than Grapes of Wrath because the Oklahoma years were personally lived by Sonora Babb.  Her writing about poverty came from experience.  Here is one of my favourite passages:

That reminded me so much of my favourite song of all time, This World by Malvina Reynolds:

Baby, I ain’t afraid to die,
It’s just that I hate to say good-bye to this world,
This world, this world.

This old world is mean and cruel,
But still I love it like a fool, this world,
This world, this world.

I’d rather go to the corner store
Than sing hosannah on that golden shore,
I’d rather live on Parker Street
Than fly around where the angels meet.

Oh, this old world is all I know,
It’s dust to dust when I have to go from this world,
This world, this world.

Somebody else will take my place,
Some other hands, some other face,
Some other eyes will look around
And find the things I’ve never found.

Don’t weep for me when I am gone,
Just keep this old world rolling on, this world,
This world, this world.

Back to Sonora Babb, here is a passage that captures the reality of being poor and watching the ways of the moneyed folk:

An old woman, facing foreclosure, gives the bank a piece of her mind.  Why hasn’t the world moved beyond this?  It is still happening today.

….

In California, the farmworkers’ children were sneered at in school and called “Okies”.

Poverty, cotton picking, fruit picking, broken strikes for a decent wage, and another glimpse into the contrast between the poor and the privileged:

It is a great book and a quick read, being much much shorter than Grapes of Wrath.  I intend to read (through interlibrary loan) Babb’s memoir of life on the Great Plains, An Owl on Every Post.

I had time for another book, and Calvin joined me for this one.I found this excerpt the most interesting:

I must admit that I skimmed some of the stories of losing jobs that did not grab my interest, probably because staycation reading days have been few and I have a large stack of books waiting for more rainy days.  Tomorrow is supposed to be dry-ish in parts, so I have a feeling I will be back out into the garden.

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