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Alvin C. Romer

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Gleaning the Essence of the Biographical A.G. Gaston
By Alvin C. Romer   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, January 27, 2006
Posted: Friday, January 27, 2006

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This is a short take on the aesthetic importance of Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs focusing on the legendary A.G. Gaston an Alabama entrepreneural icon.

A. G. Gaston wasn’t too removed from Madam C. J. Walker, the subject of last month’s icon figure who made a mark on history. Now comes this giant of a man specific in his ideas where determination and persistence matched his integrity. In my opinion, there’s something to be said about the lives and stories of the people that makes differences in our everyday lives, no matter what era. Documentaries and other mediums that fuel the telling of history depend more often than not on someone of note who was anybody, or someone who feel that the account wouldn’t account for anything without a first hand report. The literary scene today are teeming with books told from the perspective of someone who have wormed their way into their authors’ lives, becoming an extra presence during the years spent writing about them. Biography subjects are a dime a dozen, too many of late to totally ignore, but enough to alarm booksellers that this is something to be reckoned with. I was able to ask several people in the industry about the over abundance of bios and memoirs.

My main question was: Is it the right time for biographies or memoirs to be bigger than life right now? True to the business of selling books, booksellers adamantly answered by welcoming any book that had the potential to sell, while librarians remarked that there would always be room on shelves to display this type of subject. Most of my colleagues in academia responded that they thought there would always be an appealing need for biographical moments when historical patterns dictate someone to document meaningful timelines in events that shape history. Moreover, they countered when I expressed concern about how they have proliferated over a spate of ten years, that the idea of continuity should prevail when stories are looking for as much legitimacy possible to spur sales. Would they sale? What makes one succeed and another fail? This brings me to my next point; one that has bearing on our book-of-the-month choice.

My queries came about because of the concern of having to choose books of the same ilk, and the fact that I wanted to choose a book that everyone would want to read…I wanted something appealing and compelling. I worry about sales, both editorial and commercial, especially as it pertains to books of African-American mettle. Editorially, one cannot ignore storytelling acumen and poor choice of topic. On the commercial side, failure can be foremost when two or more books on the same topic are produced at once. But then again, my hope is that people that look like me when support ancestral accomplishment and endeavor to learn more about our forbearers. When A.G. Gaston’s name popped up in my mind, I felt a familial kinship simply because anything historic due to accomplished acumen I knew would kindle excitement. I wondered though, whether my book buddies would be interested in this type of figure who inspired many to emulate his example. I’ve always been the type to embrace and cuddle up to history, and this figure and what he accomplished should not go unnoticed. Had I chose any other book to compliment this month’s feature, I’m sure it wouldn’t have given readers yet another chance to see a distinguished gentleman, and an entrepreneur to boot, excel against many odds. Dera Williams who reviewed this book for APOOO Book Club that, “This book should be taught in every Business 101 class and should be mandatory reading for black high school students. It is shameful that outside of black business circles, so little is known about him and other blacks who has made such strides. Gaston was named millionaire of the century by Black Enterprise Magazine and should be noted as not only an accomplished black man but as a true icon of American history”, and I concur.

I’m so glad that we can make choices for our books collectively for the democratic approach to work just fine. And since this book was chosen, I’m hoping that it would be read for greater understanding for what this gentleman represented. Aside from the inner perspective of this biography, it has compelling interest because of who wrote it and reasons why. We endeavor to bring you other gems that should peak your interest as an adjunct to our responsibilities this month. We will give you insight on other relative tidbits to this subject that may fall in any one of the three categories, be it biographical, autographical, or memoir. I say to you – read more, learn more, and know that it’s better to blend memoir and history than to go ignorant without perseverance. A. G. Gaston probably wouldn’t have disagreed!

· More on A. G. Gaston can be found clicking onto the following links: http://www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/551/A_G_Gaston_was_a_very_good_businessman

· http://www.aggastonexpo.com/

· http://www.archives.state.al.us/famous/academy/a_gaston.html

Web Site: The Romer Review


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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 1/29/2006
enjoyed the read