Born on October 1, 1924, Jimmy Carter
grew up on a Georgia farm during the Great Depression. In An Hour Before Daylight
, the former president tells the story of his rural boyhood, and paints a sensitive portrait of America before the civil rights movement.
Carter describes--in glorious, if sometimes gory, detail--growing up on a farm where everything was done by either hand or mule: plowing fields, "mopping" cotton to kill pests, cutting sugar cane, shaking peanuts, or processing pork. He also describes the joys of walking barefoot ("this habit alone helped to create a sense of intimacy with the earth"), taking naps with his father on the porch after lunch, and hunting with slingshots and boomerangs with his playmates--all of whom were black. Carter was in constant contact with his black neighbors; he worked alongside them, ate in their homes, and often spent the night in the home of Rachel and Jack Clark, "on a pallet on the floor stuffed with corn shucks," when his parents were away. However, this intimacy was possible only on the farm. When young Jimmy and his best friend, A.D. Davis, went to town to see a movie, they waited for the train together, paid their 15 cents, and then separated into "white" and "colored" compartments. Once in Americus, they walked to the theater together, but separated again, with Jimmy buying a seat on the main floor or first balcony at the front door, and A.D. going around to the back door to buy his seat up in the upper balcony. After the movie, they returned home on another segregated train. "I don't remember ever questioning the mandatory racial separation, which we accepted like breathing or waking up in Archery every morning."
In this warm, almost sepia-toned narrative, Carter describes his relationships with his parents and with the five people--only two of whom were white--who most affected his early life. Best of all, however, Carter presents his sweetly nostalgic recollections of a lost America. --Sunny Delaney
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Carter has written more than a dozen books since he left the White House; this vivid recollection of his Georgia childhood will probably be one of his most popular efforts. There are facts here--about the economics of farming during the Depression, the structure of sharecropping, and Georgia politics, for example--but the focus of Carter's narrative is the people who nurtured him on the farm and in Plains. Despite segregation, these people included African American neighbors as well as his own family, and Carter supplies lively portraits of many of the adults and children, black and white, who impressed him when he was little. Using a conversational tone, Carter wanders through the past, commenting on the weather and crop prices, local geography, chores and illnesses, adjusting to school, and learning to hunt and fish. Carter remains more popular as an ex-president than he was during his term of office, and his experiences are just different enough from those of most readers that his memoir should have broad appeal. Mary CarrollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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