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Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics, and Other American Heroes

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This book is a tribute to some of America's greatest characters: people holding on to unique ways of life at all costs. A castle builder, a forty-year-veteran Woolworth's lunch counter waitress, a marriage broker, and the president of the Brooklyn Elite Checker Club are among this varied group of ordinary people who prevail against all odds. Isay and Wang have found fifty-six such people, diehard individualists who speak for themselves, illuminating their remarkable lives and personalities. Isay's compelling and ...
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Overview

This book is a tribute to some of America's greatest characters: people holding on to unique ways of life at all costs. A castle builder, a forty-year-veteran Woolworth's lunch counter waitress, a marriage broker, and the president of the Brooklyn Elite Checker Club are among this varied group of ordinary people who prevail against all odds. Isay and Wang have found fifty-six such people, diehard individualists who speak for themselves, illuminating their remarkable lives and personalities. Isay's compelling and often humorous profiles are accompanied by Wang's wonderful portraits. Henry Roth's foreword is a moving testament to creativity, tenacity, and dignity these people possess.

Based on the award-winning National Public Radio series The American Folklife Radio Project, this illustrated tribute to America's greatest characters offers wonderful profiles of 50 illuminating and remarkable people who prevailed against all odds to hold on to their unique ways of life. 50 photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 50 individuals profiled in this delightful collection all were interviewed by Isay on his National Public Radio series The American Folklife Radio Project. Most of his subjects are older people who are dreamers, devoting themselves to such pursuits as creating religious grottoes, castles, bells and centers for dinosaur sculptures; conducting businesses, such as opera houses or bars, in ghost towns; or following unusual careers, for example, marriage brokering and restoring mannequins. There are those whose lifework has not been exotic, such as a country doctor who still charges a dollar for an office visit, a hat blocker and a sheepherder, and those who have followed bizarre paths, including a serpent-handling minister and the overseer of a coon-dog graveyard. But Isay approaches them all open-mindedly and sympathetically, and his warm commentary is supplemented by Wang's superb photos. A joy to read. Appendix. (Dec.)
Library Journal
There are those who fear that today's urbanized, computerized society is stripping us of our individualism, that we will all ultimately exhibit the sameness of fast-food hamburgers. They should read Holding On and take heart. Basing their short portraits on National Public Radio interviews, public radio producer Isay and photographer Wang introduce 50 die-hard individualists. An 88-year-old Hopi religious leader fights to keep electricity and running water out of his village; a compulsive diarist is at 34,263,395 words and climbing; a retired stripper guides guests through her burlesque museum; a Colorado man constructs a medieval castle; a country doctor still charges a dollar for an office visit, two for a house call. Fun, and recommended.-Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Mary Carroll
Is the flurry of recent books that are in some way connected with U.S. public broadcasting--both audio and video varieties--a coincidence or smart public relations in the face of the GOP's drive to privatize the public airwaves? Whichever it may be, fans of National Public Radio and others who prefer the quirkiness of ordinary people to the overhyped exotica of tabloid tattle will love Wang and Isay's portraits of several dozen "men and women in pursuit of "something", and holding on to that at all costs." Isay, producer of NPR's American Folklife Radio Project, supplies brief introductions and interviews; Wang (creator of "Harvey Wang's New York", 1990) provides vivid photos of the book's people and places. The authors feature hoboes and hat blockers, healers and serpent handlers, as well as the operators of some of the oddest tourist attractions on the face of the earth. A satisfying celebration of a fascinating collection of American originals.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393037548
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/25/1995
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.94 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 9
Preface 11
Acknowledgments 13
Photographer's Acknowledgments 15
"Steam Train" Maury Graham, Hobo 18
Lawrence W. Davis, Pullman Porter 22
Robert Shields, World's Longest Diary 26
Moreese Bickham, Prisoner 32
Miles Mahan, Hula Ville 40
Roberta Blackgoat, Navajo Activist 44
Louis H. Greving, Grotto of the Redemption 48
Geneva Tisdale, Woothworth's Lunch Counter 51
Harold C. Cotton, Hat Blocker 55
Prophet Blackmon, Preacher 59
Tommie Bass, Folk Doctor 64
Donald Bean, Dinosaur Gardens 68
Sylvia Rivera and Seymour Pine, Stonewall Riots 71
Mackey E. Brown, Door-to-Door Salesman 81
Dixie Evans, Exotic World 83
Dick Falk, Press Agent 88
Segundo Mugarra, Basque Sheepherder 93
Dewey Chafin and Barbara Elkins, Serpent Handlers 96
Leslie Kornfeld and Joe Erber, Mississippi Jews 101
James Smith, Grain Scooper 107
Jim Searles, Brooklyn Elite Checker Club 111
Hinkel Schillings and Shade Pate, Fox Hunters 117
Marie Coombs, Newspaper Editor 121
Marta Becket and Tom Willett, Amargosa Opera House 123
Dan Field, Marriage Broker 129
Hallie Stillwell, Justice of the Peace 132
Percy Brigham, Scaffold Fisherman 134
Dick Zimmerman, Dugout Ranch 138
Lydia Emery, Country Doctor 142
Stanley Kilarr, Record Collector 145
Marion Walker, Howard & Walker's General Store 148
George Preston, Preston's Filling Station 150
Z. L. Hill, Riverside Hotel 153
Jim Bishop, Castle Builder 157
Mall Kennedy, Coney Island Chamber of Commerce 160
Mariano and Clara Lucca, Columbus Museum 163
Mike Gashwazra, Religious Leader 167
Dan Barlow, Fundamentalist Mormon 169
Evangeline Calvin, Mannequin Restorer 174
Dr. Hepcat, Disc Jockey 178
Bill Seward, Jersey Lilly Bar and Cafe 181
Joe Franklin, Talk Show Host 185
Fred Bloodgood, Side-Show Pitchman 190
Augustina Martinez, Healer 194
Johnny Tocco, Boxing Trainer 197
Amos Powers, Coon Dog Graveyard 200
Charlie DeLeo, Maintenance Man 203
Joe Merrill and Hilda Wilkinson, Spiritualists 206
Virginia Belle Brewer, Brewer's Bell Museum 211
Appendix 215
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