Book Reviews

“A Journey of Love, Faith, Strength…Determination”

Book Reviews

Grover, thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the book you have written and compiled about your most remarkable family.  Being set in Omaha, Georgia and Camden, New Jersey was not unlike being in two different time periods and two different worlds.  I read most of the book while riding a bus with my wife Brigitte and 50 other members of the Encore (Seniors) group of our church, Hebron Baptist Church in Duluth, Georgia. Our trip from Duluth, GA to New York City and back reminded me of the trip you and your family made from Georgia to New Jersey.

I have told my wife that she needs to read this book . . . I learned so much about you and your family. . . It reminded me of the harsh treatment and poverty endured by African Americans.  Now, I have vivid mental images of the living and social conditions for many during those days.  After telling our son, Jeremy, about reading this book and some of the things I learned to which he immediately responded that he would like to sit down and talk with you about it!

The Jackson family documented in the work is an outstanding family of survivors, achievers, leaders and contributors to the lives of many.  The many references to biblical passages, songs, people, etc. shed light on many facets of your family’s life.  The people, places, occupations and experiences cataloged indeed would be a great movie.

You have been a friend to our family for almost 40 years.  Our children have played together, you, Millette and 3 other couples have enjoyed multiple meals together yearly on special occasions.  You always have a joking approach to so many situations.  Thank you for calling me friend and brother in Christ.

Rev. Jerry Baker, Minister, Retired Georgia Baptist Association, Duluth, GA

 

Growing up in many families you will experience drama, confusion, joy, encouragement, disappointment, tragedy, and support, but above all love. Grover has done a remarkable job in capturing it all. His family’s story could be a popular TV mini-series. The book not only runs the gamut of the challenges a family faces, but also lessons to be learned for the next generation to duplicate and to avoid. The historical research was very insightful and added a great measure of authenticity to the writing. Certainly, the book will be read and enjoyed by many and will be a great resource, treasure and legacy to for the  future for  of the Jackson family.

Thomas S. Fortson, Ph.D., President, Transformed Men Centennial, CO

 

Thank you for giving me the honor of reviewing your manuscript. You and your family have had and are having a fascinating life’s journey. Oh, my goodness!!!

. . . I was so emotionally caught up in your narrative that I could only take it in small doses. I have read so much of black history and how Black people were treated in the United States that I thought I understood. BUT, reading the real life story of a trusted friend and his family has given me a very new and real perspective of how badly Black people were treated in the USA for centuries. And this story was in the 20th century!!! It is amazing that in “modern times,” a portion of the population who helped build this country from nothing should be so badly, and unjustifiably treated, based on the artificial construct of Race is an anathema. Then, the very same population, when just given a tiny chance, succeeds in participating in the “American Dream.” God bless you all. What a journey!

Alex Middleton, IBM Retired, Co-Worker since ’72 Charlotte, NC

 

“A Journey of Love, Faith, Strength . . . Determination” is a powerful saga of a Great Migration ‘s from Georgia in the late 1950’s and settled settling in Camden, NJ. Like many families, the story of their journey involves triumph and some tragedy. However, the personal, educational, and professional achievements of this family in overcoming the obstacles they faced is inspiring. I met Grover Jackson, one of the siblings in this story, on the street of Nairobi, Kenya, when he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya back in 1969. Grover went on to receive a graduate degree in business, have a successful career in the corporate sector, and maintain a loving, long-term marriage. His roots as the son of a sharecropper family in Georgia may have presented him and his siblings with challenges in the greater American society. However, those same roots created a certain strength that allowed the family to love and support one another and, eventually, thrive.

The story is told in a conversational manner, as if you are sitting in the living room talking with a member of the Jackson family. The various issues faced by family members such as being bullied at school are candidly addressed. This story is real! It’s an informative, interesting, and entertaining read.

Donald Woods, Friend since ‘69 Phoenix, AZ

 

This book is defined by one quote from the author “I never believed I deserved better, just believed I could do better.” It is an outstanding read! It tells the history of a family in a very personal way.  It’s as if you are sitting at the kitchen table with your father and he is telling you about his life, hopes, fears and dreams;  while answering all your questions in an honest, and loving way.  The struggles and failures are real; the determination, faith, and successes are overwhelming.  The life changing events will stay with you long after the last page is read.  This book is an example of what all fathers and grandfathers should be bold enough to tell their children.

Louis Sturdivant, Friend & Brother in Christ Atlanta, GA

 

A work of distinction! As each sibling reflectively tells his/her story with candor, the reader envisions a person whose individuality shines through. Although being part of the same family, each person reveals a distinct vantage point, a unique perspective, and a special set of memorable experiences. Each story forms a colorful patch in the family’s quilt that highlights a family moving forward with its face toward the sun.

Cheronne Rose, Friend Stone Mountain, GA

 

It was a wonderful story and much of your story resonated with me. Sometimes reading it caused me to stop and think about my own early life. And then it would be a while before I could start again. While my life has been different, some of the experiences you talked about were starkly similar. I think many other readers will identify with you as well.

What an awesome family. What an amazing story. Go on this journey with the Jackson family of 14 siblings as they move from simple sharecroppers from tiny Omaha, Georgia, to Camden, NJ to Kenya, Africa, and even Iran. Filled with faith, hope, courage and an abundance of family love, they beat the odds and excelled in a harsh and uninviting world.

Go with Grover, sibling number eight, as he talks about his struggles to get an education. Travel with him to Nakuru, Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer.  You will be inspired as I was and you will feel his pride at overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds as I did.

Geneva, sibling number six, remembers her foundation of faith and how that guided her from rural Georgia where they went to church as a family, often walking 2 miles on a “ dusty and sometimes wet, red clay road to church,” to a college degree and a career in education.

Learn about Mary Jackson, the Dreamer, who grew up to be an educator and became a world traveler, spending time in Iran and witnessed the violence brought by followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Learn about all these siblings who came from humble beginnings to become leaders, contributors, and outstanding citizens of their communities.

See the photographs and historical documents collected. Read for yourself what it means to have faith, love and determination. See how far you can grow and go…… Read the story of the Jacksons.

Hon. Joann B. Bowens, Retired, Chief Magistrate and Superior Court Judge, Fulton County Atlanta, GA

 

I just finished a wonderful encounter, reading the life story of the Jacksons Family, as told by my life-long friend, Grover and thirteen of his siblings.  This family hailed from Omaha, Georgia, a rural southern town, where life was incredibly hard, almost unthinkable. However, with faith in God and a strong determination, the Jackson’s children were able to snatch a portion of the American Dream.

I truly enjoyed reading this book, E  especially because it brought back memories of my participation in the phenomenal life of Grover and Millette. I am grateful that they have been my friends for the past 40+years. “A Journey of Love, Faith, Strength…Determination” is an incredible read!

Gloria K. Clark, Ph. D., Retired, Accounting Professor, Winston Salem State University Winston-Salem, NC

 

In this age of autobiographical and memoir writing – people’s life stories are rolling off the presses at an astonishing rate—the Jackson siblings’ book, A Journey of Love, Faith, Strength…and Determination, is a tremendously moving example of the genre. How a family of 14 children, headed by parents whose survival strategies in the face of extreme poverty rivaled those created by generals in a war room, and by a mother whose faith was bedrock solid, beat the odds and flourished is the stuff of legends.

This migration story of the Jackson family’s move from Omaha, Georgia, located in one of the poorest counties in the state, to New Jersey is American history in its most authentic form. We learn that history is people, not facts, numbers, and abstractions about “The Home of the Brave.”  Dirt, and oh so much of it, blood, sweat and tears abound in this book.  This is no sanitized depiction of agrarian life. One sibling after another denounces the soul-killing work of farming and the toll it takes on individuals as well as the family unit. Yet triumph also abounds in this story: nourishing meals grace the family table each day, the family attends church together (but the children resent how the preacher eats the biggest and best parts of the fried chicken when he is invited to dinner), and family members show each other love and respect under the most trying circumstances.

Not the least of these circumstances is the family members’ leave-taking for points n North.  As individual members of the family leave the farm at different times, wrenching themselves away from the difficult, yet familiar life they had known, the task before them in New Jersey entails welcoming family members who eventually join them, reconfiguring family ties on new ground, and establishing their careers. Unlike many migration stories that focus mainly on getting to the northern promised land, A Journey of Love, Faith, Strength…and Determination tells not only how the Jackson got from here to there, but why. The success of the Jackson siblings – of the ten who earned college degrees, five also earned graduate degrees; others traveled widely, including Grover who joined the Peace Corps and served in Kenya, and established satisfying careers, is even sweeter when we readers look back with them and wonder “How they got over.”

Thank you, Grover, for being the catalyzing force behind this wonderful project. This book needs to be taught in African American literature classes, mainstream American literature classes, and classes on autobiographical writing technique. The speakers’ individual perspectives on any given topic lend depth and unique contours to the subject at hand.

At the end of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel about the dehumanizing effects of slavery, the narrator says, “This is not a story to pass on.” While the surface meaning instructs readers to avoid passing on such a terrible story, the deeper, and more subversive, meaning is that readers shouldn’t take a pass on telling this African American story that needs to be told. We are grateful that the story of this remarkable family will, in fact, be told.

Geraldine Smith-Wright, Ph. D., Professor Emerita, Drew University Madison, NJ