Emblems of Conduct is the simple, moving memoir of the Depression-era youth in Atlanta of novelist Donald Windham.
When the author was six, his father left him, his brother, and his mother. Windham's recollections contrast the emotional weather of childhood with the memory of a devoted mother struggling alone to maintain family harmony in the face of mounting financial turmoil.
Windham eloquently relates the often idyllic time his family lived in the Victorian home of his grandparents on historic Peachtree Street. Tempering these memories are Windham's recollections of such trials as the loss of the family "homeplace" and a move to the newly constructed Techwood Homes housing project.
As Windham grows aware of the restraints placed upon him by his life, he becomes no longer willing to accept an expected career with the Coca-Cola company, where he has started to work making barrels. Spurred on by newfound friendships, weekend excursions, and his love of books, Windham increasingly yearns for a world beyond Atlanta. Finally, at nineteen, he leaves for New York, intending never to return.
Praised as "a masterpiece" by Georges Simenon, Windham's tale is at once a portrait of a bygone era in Atlanta and a moving statement about the physical and spiritual need of youth to take risks.