- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670035351
- ISBN-13: 978-0670035359
- Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 1.9 x 24.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 930 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,993,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie Hardcover – Apr 1 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange shapes a lucid, affecting portrait of another indisputably restless spirit, the prolific songwriter and impassioned folksinger Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967). Drawing from Guthrie's autobiographical writings and correspondence and from original interviews (with the singer's children Arlo and Nora, and Pete Seeger, among others), the author painstakingly charts his subject's itinerant, often troubled life. Tragedy often, eerily, in the form of devastating fire shadowed Guthrie from his childhood, when his mother, suffering from Huntington's Disease (which eventually ravaged the singer as well), was finally placed in a state hospital after setting her husband on fire. (Years later, Woody's four-year-old daughter died from severe burns.) In chronicling Guthrie's cross-country ramblings and his relationships with his three wives, children and fellow musicians, Partridge offers intriguing insight into the singer as well as the creation of his songs. Background on political and social conflicts gives young readers access to the issues that so frequently inspired Guthrie. Ample quotations, excerpts from his lyrics, reproductions of his sketches and photographs infuse these pages with Guthrie's spontaneous and charismatic if erratic personality. A memorable biography of this talented artist and understated proponent of social change. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-This outstanding biography belongs in every library collection, large or small. With access to the extensive Woody Guthrie Archives and opportunities to interview two of his children and his longtime friend and fellow musician Pete Seeger, Partridge has written a fascinating portrait not only of the man, but also of the historical upheavals that shaped his life and were captured and reflected in his songs. Against a backdrop of the Depression, the Dust-Bowl migration, farm workers' camps in California, World War II, and the Cold War era, readers are introduced to the whirlwind of creative, nervous energy and often-erratic behavior that characterized Guthrie. Although he was hospitalized with Huntington's Disease by the time of the 1960s' folk-music boom, young singers including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Odetta led a new generation to love his music. While deeply appreciative of his many talents, the author does not gloss over his irresponsible behavior and frightening outbursts of violence, which grew worse as his disease progressed, or the family tragedies he endured. Although Guthrie's active career lasted just over two decades, readers are left with an overwhelming sense of the remarkable creativity and productivity of those years and its enduring legacy for future generations. Numerous black-and-white photographs, reproductions of Guthrie's drawings and letters, and concert posters and flyers appear throughout the handsome volume. Partridge includes detailed source notes and a page of resource information about the archives and the Huntington's Disease Society of America.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Woody Guthrie was born in 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma to a mother with Huntington's Disease and a father who joined lynch mobs and Klu Klux Klans. Talking about this point in Woody's life, Partridge simultaneously displays all the harsh horrible things Woody had to deal with growing up without actually condemning anyone. In fact, the portions of the text that talk about Charley Guthrie (Woody's father) joining in the persecution of African-Americans aren't related with any commentary at all. It's as if Partridge is working on the assumption that the readers will be able to process these facts and come to their own conclusions, rather than have interpretations rammed down their throat. It is also the first moment the author gives the audience the benefit of the doubt. It is not the last.
Moving on through Woody's life, we see him grow up, loose his parents (one way or another), and join various bands. We also see him beginning to travel all across the country on his own. At last, Woody marries and it becomes clear that he is not exactly prime husband material. Abandoning his wife regularly to travel (sometimes when she's just about to give birth), Woody joins various causes around the country. When Woody and his wife finally break up, her narrative abruptly ends. Patridge has a habit of following the people in Woody's life meticulously right up until the moment Woody breaks off all contact with them. Then, their story ends immediately. We never really learn how Woody's father ended his life. Or what became of Woody's children by his first wife (though an afterword in the back of the text explaining Huntington's Disease explains that all but three of his children died either of the disease or of car accidents). Do we criticize Partridge for her choice or narratives? Or do we accept that she really couldn't continually follow Woody's friends and relatives because of space and narrative issues? I'm inclined towards the latter, though it would have been nice to see a little afterword that explains what became of everyone.
Moving towards Woody's second wife, the war, and his battle with Huntington's, Partridge nicely melds text with social commentary. Woody's acceptance of all people, regardless of color, is especially well done. As he sinks further into Huntington's, and has an affair with a pretty young folk singer, the reader sees how Woody finally loses control. A little more information about the talented Arlo Guthrie (his son) would not be out of place at this point, but this is Woody's story, I suppose. Finally, we read Woody's death. The story ends.
Partridge is to be commended for how interesting this book is. As I read it, my husband continually asked me why this was considered a juvenile book. Apart from being published by a press for young readers, I have to assume it's considered a youth text because its so doggone interesting. The words are a little larger than you'd find in an adult biography. The pictures a little more interesting and consistent. On the whole it's a great read. Most wonderful of all is how well the book has been researched. Partridge includes an Afterword about her own personal connection to the subject, a tribute to the Woody Guthrie Foundation, information on Huntington's Disease, Acknowledgements (in which she mentions her interviews with Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seegar), Source Notes, a Bibliography, an Index, Picture Credits, and Permissions. She is nothing if not extensive.
"This Land Was Made For You and Me" is not the world's most definitive biography written with youth in mind, but it comes pretty darn close. But don't limit it to the kids. Read it yourself. Learn a little more about what made the great man tick. Though it's over-quoted, here's what Woody himself had to say about his music:
"I hate a song that makes you think that you're not any good. I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. I am out to fight those kind of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood".
If Pete Seeger says "The best book about Woody ever written", it's got to be good. Can you imagine Pete saying something he didn't believe? Get it,it's a keeper and enjoy it.
All the same, somewhat recommended.
The problems come when actually reading the book. Some of the pictures seem unnecessary and included just to take up space. The pictures are sometimes poorly placed and do not match up with the information until a few pages later. Partridge also focuses on his years as an artist and includes very little information about Huntington's Disease. A brief section on what the disease actually does to a person and perhaps the treatments used would have been a nice addition to the book.
Nevertheless, the book is a wonderful resource and an enjoyable read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Woody's parents didn't have it easy - his father, Charley didn't like to face the reality of what was happening to his wife, he would drink so he didn't have to face it.
Woody explored just about every belief looking for answers, answers to life and how to live his life. He was mostly interested in the Communist Party and their beleifs.
At times Woody was a counselor to those who were lost, sick, hungry, wanting work and he would give them "commonsense answers", the people would go away satisfied with what Woody had to say to them.
Woody would quite frequently sing his songs to down and out families in migrant camps, always identifying with the workers.
Woody began to suspect the same illness that haunted his mother was effecting him also, he knew that Huntington's disease could be passed along generation to generation.
My heart breaks for all the people who loved Woody and for Woody himself. It's a tragic story, but one worth reading.