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Little Heathens: 03/09/09

I grew up listening to my maternal grandmother's stories of growing up during the Great Depression. She was eight when the stock market crashed so her memories were vivid. Reading Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish was like having a visit from my grandmother.

Mildred Kalish lived in Iowa with her mother and siblings, half the time of the year in her grandparent's farm in Garrison and the other half in nearby unincorporated Monroe county on a farm owned by the grandparents. The book is full of her memories of her large family which included aunts, uncles and cousins, the chores they did together and how the seasons dictated the timing of the chores and her family's deep roots in Garrison.

What set this memoir apart for me was Mildred Kalish's frankness. Mixed in with the schmaltz is some straight talk about what life was like for the adults (and the big kids). She has a long and very silly discussion on slang and swear words. I could have checked off most of them from the list I had learned from my grandmother. Ian had a similar reaction when I read the juicier bits to him.

Nut gathering was a big part of the family ritual from the black walnuts and hickory nuts in the family graveyard. My grandmother when she was dating my grandfather had her first experience with nut gathering. She was usually one to do things from scratch the but nut gathering and preparation was one thing that tried her patience. As soon as they were married and far away from his family, she put an end to nut gathering. So when I was reading chapter 19, I was giggling, knowing that here was one thing grandmother wouldn't agree on with Mildred Kalish.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, March, 10, 2009 at 10:31:13

Heather J.

"was like having a visit from my grandmother." Now THAT is a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one. :)

I've been hearing good things about this book — I'll have to check it out eventually.

Comment #2: Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 17:43:31


I really enjoyed the book because I felt a personal connection to it. Happy reading!

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