Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home Truths

A Deep East Texas Memory
By: Gerald Duff
TCU Press 149 pgs
Submitted by TCU Press
Rating: 4.5

Home Truths is Gerald Duff's memoir of a boyhood spent on the Gulf Coast and deep in the piney woods of East Texas. I am a native Texan and I understand volumes by the mere mention of East Texas. I don't even like to drive through East Texas. Although a short trip in terms of geography between the gulf and the woods, the cultures and circumstances are worlds apart. Mr. Duff's father Willie was from East Texas but had moved from that physical world and worked at a good job in the petro-chemical plants of the Texas Gulf Coast. These were dependable well-paying jobs in the years following World War II. He married Dorothy Irwin, the daughter of an oil company manager from Nebraska. Night and day.

The author was born in a hospital which was something to remark upon in that day and age and place. Subsequently he acquired two sisters. Then Willie Duff was fired from his job, what I consider to be a real disaster because in an apparent fit of pettiness and self-wounding pride, he packed up his family and sentenced them to years in an East Texas prison. Not a prison with physical walls but a prison nonetheless, a prison of poverty, bigotry, religion, and ignorance.

This memoir is about how book-loving Gerald Duff survived and escaped with sensitivity and intellectual curiosity and ambition in tact. It is the author's contention that people in these circumstances must believe the lies they tell about themselves and each other in order to survive the psychic wounds inflicted by this culture. Desperation is a ruinous thing. This book is honest and courageous and I recommend it to you all.



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