Skinny House, a memoir of family ISBN: 9780995877718 Skinny House Productions copyright and written by Julie L. Seely.
In the Forward, the author very adroitly describes this book; “Despite its title, this book is no simple story about an odd, narrow-built dwelling. It’s about the family who lived in the house and the patriarch who built it.” The dwelling referred to is a ten foot wide, three story house among full-sized homes and now on the National Registry list, situated in Mamaroneck, N.Y. The basic story is of an ambitious black carpenter whose entrepreneurial abilities built a successful construction business in the early 1920’s with a grand house and all associated amenities for his wife to whom such ‘arrival’ met all of her expectations, only to have it snatched away by advent of the ‘Great Depression and subsequent devastation that followed well into the late ‘30’s. It follows the loss of the business, the house and all other amenities in a period when everyone was struggling just to survive in a time ‘when black men were the last to be hired and the first to be let go’. It also is of a period of time when ‘the man was the breadwinner, and the woman was the stay-at-home wife’ and a man was ashamed not to be able to work, and a wife should not be in a position to have to do so. The tale also provides quite graphic details of the carpenter’s attempts to salvage his pride and that of his wife, and of the gradual but insidious manner in which it failed and gradually slid into destruction of the family as a whole and to an extent, the individual personalities.
Discussion: Little more needs to be said. The author has used the house, how and why it was built and of what happened to the builder, his wife, children and grandchildren to provide a fascinating tale of a wild and highly explosive period in the history of America, its demoralizing fall-out and the residual effects on a man, his wife, children and grandchildren. The author readily admits her mistake of underestimating a family’s legacy. The lesser importance of physical versus “the colorful tapestry of memories and anecdotes handed down” and “intangible wisdom handed down from one generation to another”; “the spiritual binding”.
5* Captivating family memoir painstakingly, scholarly assembled by a loving granddaughter.