From the time that he ran away to sea at sixteen, until he graduated from the University of Washington, Horace R. Cayton was a messman on a freighter, an unknowing handyman in an Alaskan brothel, a juvenile delinquent and inmate of a reform school, a dock worker and steward on a passenger liner, and a deputy in the sheriff's office of King County, Washington. Born in Seattle, a city then uniquely free from racial tensions and prejudices, Cayton found the privileged, secure, middle-class position of his well-to-do parents ineffectual against the gradual spread of racism that was sweeping America. His disarmingly honest autobiography is the ever-absorbing record of an intelligent, sensitive, and proud man's attempts to find identity in a confusing and conflicting chaos of black and white, in a nation that, although dedicated to equality, somehow managed to deny this ideal by almost every action. Although his turbulent life was complicated by the color barrier--often resulting in reverses and frustrations that have rendered him close to a breakdown--this alone is not what makes Cayton's book such captivating reading. Wholly lacking in self-pity or special pleading, Horace Cayton has written a personal narrative of unfailing interest on any number of scores, a book that ranks with the best of American autobiographical writing. For it manages to remain highly critical without once resorting to bitterness; to be filled with hope, though not always hopeful; and brims with compassion and bemused and acute insights into a troubled society. It is a telling, almost poetic tribute to the resiliency of black culture.
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- ID: 9781412811217
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