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Potomac Books


Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, 0803210647, 0-8032-1064-7, 978-0-8032-1064-6, 9780803210646, Marvin V. Arnett, American Lives, Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, 0803203047, 0-8032-0304-7, 978-0-8032-0304-4, 9780803203044, Marvin V. Arnett, American Lives, Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, 0803216386, 0-8032-1638-6, 978-0-8032-1638-9, 9780803216389, Marvin V. Arnett , American Live

Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt
Marvin V. Arnett

2003. 176 pp.
$26.95 s
Out of Stock
2008. 200 pp.
$14.95 t

Part memoir and part urban social history, Pieces from Life’s Crazy Quilt is an African American woman’s personal account of her life during a racially turbulent period in a northern American city. Raised in a black neighborhood in urban Detroit, Marvin V. Arnett begins her book with her birth during the Great Depression, and ends with the infamous Detroit race riot of 1943. Arnett’s close observations and attention to the details of her neighborhood and the complex adult relationships around her make this an understated yet powerful story of witness.
Like the idiosyncratic pieces of a crazy quilt, each chapter functions alone but takes on particular resonance when considered with the whole. Choreographed as one-act plays, each chapter invites the reader into the life of the Sprague family and their neighbors during the years after the Ford Motor Company closed their Detroit plants. Arnett tells the story of her childhood with subversive allusions to the Victorian-era coming-of-age stories she consumed while growing up and the moral lessons she absorbed in such readings but could not reconcile with her own experience.

Marvin V. Arnett is a retired manager who worked in the federal service for more than twenty-five years and is a former vice president of the National Organization of Blacks in Government. Arnett is a member of The Society of Midland Authors. She lives in Southfield, Michigan, where she lectures and tutors.

"Everyone has a relative who waxes on (and on and on) about the good old days. But then there's the storyteller who turns the common into compelling. Such is true with Southfield, Michigan, writer Marvin V. Arnett. . . . Her gracious style makes an absorbing read."—Midwest Living

"In this moving memoir, Arnett relates her experiences as a young African American in urban Detroit during the 1930s and 1940s. . . . Librarians everywhere will smile as they read of her 'love affair' with her adored Lathrop Library. . . . Public libraries everywhere will want to acquire this warm and wonderful book, particularly as it is a part of the 'American Lives' series, edited by Tobias Wolff. . . . It is an excellent choice for young adult collections."—Library Journal

"Arnett writes poignantly of growing up in Detroit during the Depression, when families of various races shared neighborhoods and meager resources even as they suffered occasional racial and ethnic discord. . . . [H]er memories primarily portray a sweeter time, despite its economic strife."—Booklist

“Marvin Arnett’s book captures in a vivid, readable, and highly personal way the reality of a time, place, and way of life that is gone forever. It is a real history as it was lived.”—Professor William Linn, Humanities Department, University of Michigan, Dearborn

“Arnett narrates her experiences with quiet dignity and faith. Her optimism and strength of spirit are qualities we don’t see often enough in contemporary memoir.”—Michael Steinberg, founding editor of Fourth Genre

Pieces from Life’s Crazy Quilt places rough times beside humorous times, and the result is an understanding of the lives of black folks that would make Maya Angelou nod in agreement. . . . [It’s] a delightful read—a coming-of-age story told through the keen observations of Marvin Sprague, a black girl growing up in Detroit, Michigan, during the 1930s and 40s.”—Walter Benefield, African American Literature Book Club, Brooklyn, New York

"Each piece of this "crazy quilt" draws the reader into these vivid coming-of-age stories revealed in the drama of adult complexities."—Feminist Academic Press Column

“As she writes, Arnett herself quilts, weaving stories together to tell a compelling tale of time, place, and people. Her vignettes animate a universal story of childhood, with all its fears, hopes, excitements, mistakes and insecurities—tales so very familiar, they span the boundaries of race and economics.”—Lisa M. Collins, Metro Times

“Marvin V. Arnett has spun a delightful coming of age saga that starts in 1928 when there wasn’t much to be delighted about in the United States. . . . The book gives a social history of a time period that many Americans know little about. It has the personal touch that brings the Depression and the Detroit Riot of 1943 alive with characters the reader can readily relate to and empathize with. While each chapter could certainly stand alone, Arnett ties the whole together in a wonderful story that can be enjoyed by everyone.”—Alice Holman, Rawsistas Reviewers

"In Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, Marvin Arnett proves to be a noteworthy memorist as she takes us through an often-forgotten part of Detroit's past. With her able assistance, we are introduced to sometimes quirky, but always memorable groups and individuals, including her own intact family, who gave the city its vibrancy and taught its children how to survive and even thrive despite the racism and tension that permeated the 1930s and 40s."—Deborah Smith Pollard, Director of African/African American Studies Program at the University of Michigan–Dearborn

"Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt is symbolic of the Depression and World War II era. [Arnett's] candid visualization makes you think you are living each day with her through the course of her journey. . . . Her style of writing is literary prose at its finest—pure, graceful, and crisp. This is an enlightening and refreshing read! Marvin Arnett has done a miraculous job with Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt."—Tonya Howard, Reviewer, Sister Divas Book Club, Richmond, Virginia

"Growing up in a northern city during the Depression years, the author describes her schooling, her love of libraries, the death of her sister, her relationship with her brother and the many adults that impacted her life. Libraries everywhere should have this book."—Lauretta Pierce, writer for The Literary World, Highlands Ranch, Colorado

"An extraordinarily insightful account of urban American in the 1930s and 40s through the eyes of a young African-American girl. It is a triumph of the human spirit and an unforgettable journey. Ms. Arnett's account of the era eclipses all others in memory.—Marie Ann Poplawski, FEW Mentor Coordinator for Alternative for Girls, Detroit, Michigan

"Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt will make you laugh, cry, and stand up and cheer!"—Kathy Swartz, President, Kathy's Happy Organs, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio

"This book oozes emotion, discovery, and truth. It would make an excellent movie or television mini-series. . . . Great character presentation and development, coupled with interesting subject material combines to raise this book to a five star level. . . . Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt, like its author, is crazy like a fox. I love it!"—William J. Hytower, President, Hytower Music, Southfield, Michigan

"A beautiful and detailed work of art comprised of sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful patches without worth or meaning until fused together."—Robbin L. Melton, Staff Writer for Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana

"A positive, inspiring account of a united, loving African American family. The author shares with the reader her love and admiration for her strong and engaging father and mother. A remarkable account made even more remarkable because it is true. A must read."—Caletta Hytower, Systems Analyst, LMP Representative, Oak Park, Michigan

"Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt is thoughtful, funny, and filled with warmth and love. . . . A true pictures of black urban life 'back in the days.'"—Sharon Stanford, Chair, Detroit Writer's Guild, Detroit, Michigan

"Arnett reveals the complexity of the black urban world . . . the strengths of the black family and local community."—Dr. Julius E. Thompson, Director of Black Studies Program, University of Missouri, Columbia

"A diverse readership can easily relate to this touching account of growing up in post-Depression urban America. Pieces from Life's Crazy Quilt helps define Detroit during the 30s and 40s. . . . It is excellent reading."—Jack Gallagher, Director of Information Technology, Southfield, Michigan

If there is any message that stands out in my mind . . . it is that all experiences, good or bad, are opportunities to learn and grow. . . . The characters were so alive that I felt as if I knew them personally. . . . Arnett's conversational writing style makes you feel more like you're chatting than reading a book."—Stacey Seay, Reviewer, R.A.W. SISTAZ, Montgomery, Alabama

"An enjoyable, moving, and touching excursion into several little mini-movies of another time in our crazy lives."—Ella Joyce, Actress, Burbank, California

Selected by the American Library Association as one of the "Best of the Best" books published by University Presses."

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