Skinny House-A Memoir of Family
Skinny House is a memoir about Nathan Seely. He is known as the builder of a skinny house that was ten feet wide and thirty-nine feet long and three stories high in Mamaroneck, New York. Nathan and his brother Willard set up one of the first African American owned construction companies in New York in the 1920s, and it seemed like the world was theirs to conquer. The only thing that stood in the way of their dreams was the Great Depression, which hit hard. When Nathan lost the family home, he was left with a sliver of land next door, upon which he built his small home by hand from salvaged materials. He was hoping he would be able to continue to provide for his family and rebuild his business.
This poignant memoir follows Nathan Seely’s story and that of his descendants. But it is more than a tale of an interesting family; it’s one that encompasses history, changing generations, and their expectations. It shows us what we can learn by examining the past and appreciating the lives of our ancestors. By weaving historical events and important moments and places into this story, the author has created a dynamic and engaging book that was not only well researched, but also beautifully written. I loved the fact that she included photos of the family because this allowed me to feel so much more connected to their stories. I also enjoyed learning about the importance of the Pullman porter jobs for African Americans, as well as the significance of Lincoln College in Pennsylvania. And Tom’s journey from the north to the south for a job at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, & Normal College must have taken some courage in 1949.
I think anyone who reads this book will be impressed and moved by the events of the past. Like me, they will probably want to know more about their ancestors and what they can learn from their history. What makes this book stand out is the love and devotion that is discernible on every page for the extended family that Ms. Seely holds so close to her heart. In my view, this is a terrific account of a family’s history through changing times, charting the ups and downs they faced with a thoughtful and compassionate eye for detail. I was left with the notion that knowing where you come from is important, but we also need to have the courage to live our dreams and let others follow their path, whatever it may be. This memoir reaffirms that history does have something to teach us. We all have a story to tell.
|Julie L. Seely
|Skinny House Press
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