by Jimmy Carter Book : Biography
Christmas in Plains   (2008-08-17)
ISBN 0743224914 – I’ve got a large collection of Christmas books and thought that Christmas In Plains would fit in nicely. Since then, I’ve read the book and have no desire to keep it – but I am glad to have read it. It’s a nice look at Christmases gone by and a tiny window on the interaction between blacks and whites in rural Georgia over the years.
Carter shares his memories of Christmas throughout his life. As a member of a well-off family in Georgia, he is blissfully unaware of any real difference between himself and his black playmates and shares Christmas joys with them as well as with his close family. Even the town figures into the earliest celebrations, with fireworks and church services. Through his years at West Point and in the Navy, including the early years of his marriage and finally reaching his time in public service, when his family grew and grew until, returning to Georgia from the White House, he and his wife find that much has changed – and much has stayed the same.
For other former presidents, perhaps the years in office would be their choice for an uplifting ending to a book like this. Carter chooses to end with the beginnings of his time with Habitat for Humanity, a fitting place to leave things for this man who, more than any other recent president, comes across as a normal guy with the ability to relate to the rest of us.
I was a little annoyed to find that the first chapter or two never really came into focus. Carter spends most of his ink there pointing out, in various ways, how not racist he is. While I believe that Carter’s an open-minded non-racist, it seemed a little much. On the other hand, bookending the entire tale with his childhood among black neighbors in the 1930-1940s with the story of Curtis and Martha, black neighbors in need of help, is a great choice. Despite being part of a close family, and his mentioning the days before his father’s death, he glosses over that death and its impact on himself, his family and their holidays. The illustrations by Amy Carter would have been cute, had they been done when she was 8. She’s not eight and the only cute factor is that they’re evidence of her closeness to her father. A nice holiday read, just not a keeper.
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