This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie

This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie

 by Elizabeth Partridge, Viking, 2002,  ISBN: 978-0-670-03535-9 **“Jesus Christ was a man that traveled through the land A hard-working man and brave He said to the rich ‘Give your goods to the poor.’ So they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.” -- Woody Guthrie **“After more than a year in Los Angeles, the freedom of being on the road again was incredible. But when Woody stopped over in a squalid migrant camp, his light, open feelings quickly plummeted. Some people had been living in the camps for several years now, barely scratching out a subsistence living. They were desperate and angry. “In nearby orchards, growers hired armed guards to protect the ripe fruit while the migrant children’s bellies swelled with hunger. When the migrants tried to scavenge leftover crops from piles on the ground, some growers poured kerosene over them, tossed on a match, and burnt them until they were charred and inedible.” **I find it tough to be polite in talking about Woody Guthrie’s quest for economic justice in America. Let’s face it: Those growers, who guarded and burned leftover crops in the thirties so that hungry people couldn’t eat them, were probably all in church come the next Sunday morning, professing to be followers of Jesus Christ. It’s tough to be polite when the rich pay a fraction today in taxes of what they did seventy years ago when Guthrie was singing about Jesus. It’s tough when the rich are still trying every which way to ensure that poor kids die in America rather than be guaranteed affordable healthcare by the government. **And if you thought Mr. Bojangles was a talented tap dancer, you should check out the news articles this past weekend, quoting right-wing Oklahoma politicians as they gingerly claim some connection to the American hero, whose hundredth birthday was being celebrated down there at WoodyFest. **“’I saw how the poor folks lived, and then saw how the rich folks lived, and the poor folks down and out and cold and hungry, and the rich ones out drinking good whiskey and celebrating and wasting handfuls of money at gambling and women, and I got to thinking about what Jesus said, and what if He was to walk into New York City and preach like He used to. They’d lock Him back in jail as sure as you’re reading this.’” **Yes, it’s difficult to be polite when you know darn well what so many so-called Christians would say of Woody and his politics, had he been out there today with his guitar. **Having, a decade ago, been part of the Best Books for Young Adults committee that voted THIS LAND WAS MADE FOR YOU AND ME as one of the Top Ten BBYA selections for that year, I’m telling you that you need to immediately pull this book out of the stacks and display it in honor of Woody’s centennial. **And if you don’t have a copy, I’m telling you that you should get a copy because it is an amazing tale of American history that is as relevant and as engaging a read as it was a decade ago: “On April 14, 1935, a huge dust storm blew up. ‘A whole bunch of us was standing just outside of town, said Woody. ‘We watched the dust storm come up like the red sea closing in on the Israel children. It got so black, when that thing hit we all run into the house.’ **“Fourteen or fifteen people shoved into Woody and Mary’s tiny living room, slamming the door shut behind them. The wind smashed against the house, throwing dirt and pebbles against the thin walls, forcing dust in around the loose-fitting windows and doors, and between the cracks in the wall. Dust hissed against the windows, darkening the room. Quickly, people threw wet rags over their mouths to breathe. **“Outside, cows and pigs and chickens were dying, smothered by the dust being forced up into their nostrils. The relentless winds blew dust into the house until Woody and his neighbors couldn’t even see each other. Someone switched on the overhead light bulb, but it just made a dim red glow like a cigarette. They sat in the dark, coughing and spitting out mud. **“The fear in the room was thick as the dust. Maybe the winds would never stop blowing. Maybe they were all going to die. Many were ardent Christians and figured this was the end. God was finally wreaking his vengeance. Their voices muffled by the damp rags, people said to one another in the dark room, ‘So long, it’s been good to know you.’ **“Hours later the winds finally stopped blowing. Woody and Mary forced the door open and saw Pampa was a sea of dust, rippling out forever like the ocean.” **Thanks to the disease that ravaged his mother, and some terrible accidents, Woody Guthrie had some unimaginably horrific childhood experiences. That Woody would similarly succumb to Huntington’s disease is one of the reasons that THIS LAND IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME is such a tragic tale. **But this is also a tale of hope as Woody who, in death as well as he did in life, continues to inspire our fight to provide opportunity and safety nets for all Americans. That an adolescent is turned onto this book is an opportunity for that child to develop an understanding for those who are struggling, empathy for the weakest among us, and an understanding of what Woody was talking about when he sang that this land was made for you and me. Richie Partington Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com  224 pages  

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