Gathering the Family by William Holtz

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As a child, William Holtz was fascinated with the Greek myth of the autochthonous warriors rising parentless from the earth; and as a young man, self-consciously lifting himself out of the Depression-era poverty of his parents' life, he often thought of himself as essentially self-created, independent of the family he was born into. More recently, in late middle age, Holtz has found himself reassessing his place in his family. The result is a deeply moving, lyrical, and sensitive memoir.

In Gathering the Family the author re-creates scenes and episodes from his early life with his family. Although he begins his work as a biographer, Holtz comes to turn his researcher's eye on himself, frankly examining his thoughts of the family he grew up with. These interlocking essays examine the lives of his mother's struggling Finnish immigrant parents, who spoke no English; of his father's large, festive German American family; and of his doomed, laughing father, his gentle, overburdened mother, and his self-destructive younger brother. The intertwining effects of heredity, circumstance, and choice in individual lives are played out poignantly as he discovers that the family he was so troubled by in his youth has made him what he has become today.

Every reader will come to care deeply about the family members Holtz portrays and will be reminded of personal and formative family experiences. Gathering the Family will compel each of us to rexamine our own places in the families that have shaped our lives.


About William Holtz

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William Holtz is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is the author or editor of several books, including the widely acclaimed The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane and Dorothy Thompson and Rose Wilder Lane: Forty Years of Friendship, Letters, 1921-1960.
Published September 5, 1997 by University of Missouri. 184 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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What's best about the book, however, is the manner in which Holtz captures the essence of family, tracing the way in which, through the generations, strengths, weaknesses, habits, and particular needs are passed down.

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Publishers Weekly

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In this gentle, elegiac memoir, Holtz, an English professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia, recreates the scenes and people of his Depression-era childhood in a mixture of moving anecdotes and self-conscious literary commentary.

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