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on December 30, 2001
Merry Christmas from the Former President
Prolific former President Carter's slim volume of Christmas memories--most spent in his hometown--makes for a quick and easy read and leaves a lingering satisfied feeling. No vignette is particularly earth-shattering, but perhaps it is the mundane and wholesome nature of his experiences that makes them all the more engrossing.
While few observers would term Jimmy Carter a great president, only the most blindly partisan Republicans fail to see him as a noble patriot overflowing with integrity. These identifying attributes are quietly displayed throughout the episodes he narrates. Even when he steps on a few toes, they are feet that deserve it. Those with a phobia about vestiges of Christianity in public schools will shutter when he writes of his childhood, "it would have been ridiculous in those days for anyone in our community, or the state of Georgia, to think that the dedicated religious services that were held every day in the public school might violate in any way the First Amendment." The former president sees great value in the school's religious presentations "because they reached every child, not just the churchgoers." Such virtuous suasion may earn him membership in the vast right wing conspiracy in some circles, but unabashed honesty forms the basis of Jimmy Carter.
Perusing his others Yuletide tales spent in the Navy, as a young father and husband, serving as Georgia's governor, on to the White, House, and back home again, readers may be disappointed by the skeletal nature of certain chapters. However, Carter's post-presidency has produced a substantial oeuvre, and other works can undoubtedly flesh out the missing tidbits.
Maybe the book's greatest strength is near complete avoidance of the political realm. Carter seems to be saying that Christmas is for all Americans, and while politics has its place, it takes a back seat--or at least it should-- to our nation's sacred holidays.
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on November 5, 2001
In An Hour Before Daylight former President Jimmy Carter reminisced about his boyhood on the farm during the Great Depression. Included in that were memories of Christmases, both for his family and for those around him in the farming community of Archery. Following up on the reception of An Hour Before Daylight, President Carter has focused his reminiscences on Christmases on the farm, in Plains, in Atlanta, and in the White House.
Christmas in Plains is a short but warm book that will not take long to read. In that short time, however, the reader will be struck by the importance of family, tradition, and holiday in President Carter's life. Some of the material presented is repeated from An Hour Before Daylight, and perhaps from some of President Carter's other books as well. It doesn't matter. The book is well-written, and evokes in the reader his own stirring of ghosts of Christmas past.
Written by almost anyone else, this book would not attract much attention. Many people have experienced Christmases much like these (except for the White House). Perhaps that is why it does receive attention-because of President Carter's celebrity we will read it and remember our own roots, family times, and traditions. And this is a time when those memories bring us a special comfort.
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on December 1, 2001
In the short "Christmas in Plains" Jimmy Carter shares mermories from a lifetime of very disparate Christmases. He remembers childhood holidays in rural Georgia where his young African-American neighbors might get an orange and some raisins. He recalls the four Christmases he spent as President. A very religious and family-oriented man, Carter has alsways treasured the birth of Christ as one of the highlights of his year. Easily read in one night this is a charming little book. To better understand this complicated and important man, a fuller read is last year's "An Hour Before Daylight" which is a more thorough memoir of his childhood years. But "Christmas in Plains" stands on its own: a charming, sometimes heartwarming account of a good man and his 70+ Christmases. This deserves to become a minor holiday classic--unlike, say, Grisham's new "Skipping Christmas".
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on December 22, 2003
The short, joyful book contains Jimmy Carter memories of Christmas. His earliest memories begin around 1930 (when he was 5), and involve memories of father Earl and mother Lillian, as well as black neighbors (in an era of separation, his family perhaps represented a light in the South). There are happy childhood memories of finding the Christmas tree and fireworks. Jimmy and Rosalynn always tried to get back to Plains, but there are included a few absent remembrance from Navy years, and a rather tense Christmas with the holding of the Iran hostages. The line drawings by daughter Amy add a family charm to the book. May the Carter's have many more Merry Christmases together in Plains.
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