Maggie's American Dream Study Guide

Maggie's American Dream By James P Comer

This inspiring story of the success of an American black family focuses on one very exceptional woman by the name of Maggie Comer, who followed her American Dream from total destitution in the rural South to ascension in the role of the mother of five remarkable individuals. Told first through Maggie's own words, then through those of her son James (himself an award-winning child psychiatrist and brilliant educator), Maggie's American Dream chronicles the unforgettable courage and resourcefulness, the pride and the achievements, of a woman who dared to dream against all odds.

James, Maggie's eldest child and the first of her five offspring to aspire to and achieve advanced degrees of schooling, reviews three generations of his black American heritage. In the tradition of the oral family history, Comer first transcribes his mother's reminiscences about her childhood in Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century; her life in an extended sharecropping family; her ongoing struggle against rampant poverty and extreme racism. It is through these transcriptions that Maggie's indomitable spirit, deep pride, and financial acumen begin to be felt -- all attributes that would eventually provide her children with a high standard of living through the Great Depression that was about to hit hard.

In the second part, James takes the pen for himself, providing an autobiographical accout of his formative years. He describes the inhumane working conditions at the steel mill that employed his father, leading to his father's premature demise, leaving him only his mother as a role model. Even as a single-parent child with several siblings, James learned of the quest for personal honor, intellectual excellence, economic success, and how to navigate a bigoted culture from his mother, and the success of his siblings and himself provide deep evidence of his mother's enduring and impressive legacy.

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