The Last Great American Hobo

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This deeply affecting essay in pictures and words focuses on the last hurrah of Blackie, who was 76 years old in 1989 when his hobo camp on California's Sacramento River, in the city of West Sacramento, was dismantled by the police. The authors' special sensitivity to the plight of the dispossessed informs this wrenching document, as previously witnessed in their Pulitzer Prize-winning And Their Children After Them , which was about Alabama sharecroppers. Blackie--whose mien struck Maharidge as a combination of New England sea captain and a leprechaun--took to the road in 1928. And except for a few intervals as a ``citizen'' (hobo lingo for comformists), he has lived on the hobo circuit, generally encountering at least tolerance. But the situation changed in the 1980s when, as the number of homeless people grew, hobos became pariahs to be forced out of town, much like those who lived in Blackie's camp. But Blackie does not consider himself homeless; he made his choice, he says, and wants not sympathy but only to be let be. His camp is gone now, though, and Blackie has not been heard from since. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Maharidge and Williamson, Pulitzer Prize winners for And Their Children After Them ( LJ 5/1/89) have collaborated again to create this moving picture of the near-octogenarian hobo Blackie and his last known ``home'' on the river's bank in West Sacramento, California. Along with the recounting of Blackie and his associates' lives, writer Maharidge explores the issue of lifestyle and goal choice as it applies to these hobos, the homeless, and his own life. Williamson's expressive photographs (almost 75 percent of the book) add visual depth to the strong and thoughtful essay about a particular representative individual and others, whose lives and mores differ from those of the contemporary, mostly middle-class ``establishment.'' Academics, makers of social and economic policy, and concerned citizens will want to read this book.-- Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
Booknews
A photo essay in 100 touching plates on the life and home and travails and joys of Blackie. Michael Williamson made the powerful (b&w) pictures. Maharidge contributed a long history of Blackie and other "homeless" singles and families living around his camp on the Sacramento River near the California capitol. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Denise Perry Donavin
A photo-essay by two journalists who try to avoid sentimentalizing their subject, Blackie. Living in a hobo camp in West Sacramento, Blackie is a 77-year-old hobo, definitely not a homeless person. "To call him homeless was the ultimate insult," according to the authors, who also assert, "the homeless [are] making it hard for hoboes." Once this distinction is vehemently made, Maharidge records what facts he learned about Blackie's years on the road since the Great Depression. Williamson follows the biographical sketch with photographs from Blackie's camp, ranging from empty wine bottles turned water jugs to scenes of the police leading a sweep to clear out the vagrants. The author's final admission that "we were interlopers, voyeurs, and perhaps exploiters" is typical of the tone of this book; throughout, the authors raise some interesting questions on individual rights and society's demands.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559582995
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/5/1993
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.35 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.87 (d)

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