"I found new pathways of using my training as a scholar and writer to bring respect, recognition, and perhaps understanding to the working-class world…"

A native of the industrial Ohio River valley, the author grew up in a mill town where classmates were mostly poor children of steel workers – immigrant and black families. Smith’s father shared the goal of many in the valley to send their children to college and escape the mills in roder to more fully serve the community. Thus was birthed the working-class, of which Smith proudly writes.

Ordinary people… family and teachers… helped him learn his strengths and stirred up passion for writing. Smith’s father noted that as a child he read books all the time, like athletes breath oxygen for energy. A teacher challenged her sixth-graders to write their own poems, introducing Emerson and Thoreau. As a result, the author became a lifelong admirer of Thoreau, visiting Concord, Massachusetts, to commune with his hero beside Walden Pond.

Moving northwest of the Ohio River to settle on Lake Erie shores, the author exchanged the mills for campuses. At graduate school, Smith and his nurse wife experienced first-hand the reality of the Kent State Massacre. For the next forty-two years as an English professor at Firelands College, Smith was drawn to the lives and works of Ohioan poets Kenneth Patchen and James Wright.

The second half of this memoir highlights books and poems written by Smith from the 1970s onward. While still teaching college English, he launched a book publishing business, Bottom Dog Press, in Huron, Ohio, which specializes in the publication of working-class authors. Smith published a fictional book, Thoreau’s Lost Journal: Poems, while his non-fiction books about Patchen and Wright were made into PBS films in the 1980s.

The author has turned out a well-written memoir that resonates with those who reached adulthood in the 1960s and 70s and became the working class. This book warms the reader like a quilt of memory scraps, recorded in words rather than stitches.

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