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Thursday
Jul262018

Book Review: Don’t Lift Up Your Hood and Cuss

Don’t Lift Up Your Hood and Cuss: A Southsider’s Journey to Redemption. Bonnie E. HarringtonWindy City Publishers, October 25, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-book, 237 pages.

Reviewed by Michelle Burwell.

Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the 1940s, Bonnie Harrington, like many Chicagoans during the time, did not have it easy. Her family had to be creative to make ends meet and often had to make sacrifices, moving to smaller spaces even as it grew. But the thing that makes Bonnie and her memoir stand out is her enduring optimism. She finds humor in daunting and difficult situations. In Don’t Lift Up Your Hood and Cuss, Bonnie is open, honest, and endearing as she depicts her transformation from a shy, naïve schoolgirl from humble beginnings, to a woman capable of exploring the world and herself.

Bonnie’s early years in Chicago were hard. She was bullied about her weight, her brother was born with an illness that lasted into his teenage years, and the family that is the center of her world dealt with infidelity. She offers paragraph-size vignettes that find the humor in a rotating cast of family pets, a house fire, and her Dad’s mid-life crisis. She weaves a heartwarming tale of a loving, supportive family that time and again finds a way to show up for each other.

After graduating high school, she met the man who eventually became her husband. Together they travelled to Alaska and Japan with the Navy, and over time faced similar predicaments to the ones from her childhood—shrinking living spaces and a growing family. Yet she made the best of her time abroad. She tells of making a friend in Japan who endured a very hard life, and who put Bonnie’s own hardships into perspective. Bonnie describes her amazement, when it is time for the family to return to Chicago after three years in Japan, at how much she has grown and evolved as a person. 

In her writing, Bonnie is able to share the exact amount of detail that makes a story funny or poignant. She is able to take her craft seriously without taking herself too seriously, and it makes for sharp prose. While the memoir carries perhaps excess detail about the family transition back into civilian life, it is overall a great, uplifting read. I would recommend this memoir, especially to anyone who may be deployed in the military or hoping for some sort of dynamic life change.

 

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