THE GENTEEL POOR
A childhood memoir by William Karl Thomas
The fourteen year old girl who appears on the cover of this book was Katherine, the person around whom all the other characters in this book revolve. Born at the turn of the 20th Century, she faced the transition of being the daughter of a wealthy New Orleans doctor to being the single mother of three children at the height of the Great Depression.
This memoir is told by the youngest child. Raised in a cultured environment, but driven by hunger to go to work at the age of eight, his world was shaped before he was born by Mimi, his witchcraft practicing maternal grandmother, and Dr. William J. Schmidt, his wealthy and talented grandfather. His survival was in part made possible by Dr. Horton, the cranky country doctor who played God and Robin Hood in this small coastal town, his Aunt Thelma who left the nunnery to become a successful executive in New York, his Grandmother Lola who lost the family fortune but gave refuge to her daughter and her children, and his millionaire Godfather, H. Grady Meador, whose wife prevented her husband from adopting his Godchild.
This story of four generations of a colorful and talented family spanning the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, deals with the social and ethnic evolution of this unique and colorful era of Americana, and culminates with the narrator marrying his high school teacher. Set in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, a half century before these areas were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, William Karl Thomas has written this memoir of his childhood with the same classic American prose style as his first memoir, Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet, about his ten year collaboration with the most controversial comic of the 20th Century. With it he has offered another very intimate and revealing slice of American history with all the good and bad, the agony and ecstasy of growing up among The Genteel Poor.
(4.0 out of 5 stars)
So Revealing!! By Marco, April 30, 2014
Perfect book with Mothers' Day approaching. This story is about the author growing up in a small Mississippi Gulf Port town,Bay St. Louis, with his Mother as a single parent. He includes photos; His Mother was beautiful both physically and spiritually. Only a good author and excellent photographer can capture both. They were not rich financially, but Katherine always made ends meet, and instilled values that do not suffer during depressions or recessions. Town people are very interesting, include famous sculptor Richmond Barthe, and the author's High
School teacher that he wound up marrying (today she would be in jail). The book also takes us back and forth to New Orleans where William spent a great deal of his life. A good read, and you get insight into the make up of this man's world.
Read an excerpt from the book.
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