In this rich memoir of his early life, the celebrated scholar and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., gives us an indelible portrait of a vanished America. Born in 1950, he grew up in Piedmont (population 2,565), a West Virginia town perched on the side of a hill in the Allegheny Mountains. He was raised in a small, intimate, middle-class "colored" community where secrets and haircuts were prime commodities and the major social event was the annual mill picnic. It was a time when the United States was just crossing the threshold into desegregation (the Piedmont schools were integrated the year before Gates entered first grade); when racial boundaries were constantly shifting and progress was measured primarily by the number of black faces that appeared on television. But Gates's story is not only a story about race. It is the story of a family, of a village, and of a special time and place in American history. Gates vividly recalls the characters who peopled his childhood: from his first love, the bookworm Linda, to Uncle Earkie the Turkey, who shared his views on the opposite sex with whoever would listen, to his grandmother Big Mom, founder of the local Episcopal church, to the exuberant Reverend Monroe, who captured many a soul. And of course the person who had the greatest influence on young Skip, his mother - a fearless, determined woman who was famous for her delivery of eulogies at funerals, who was the first colored secretary of the Piedmont PTA, and who, as an older woman, triumphantly acquired the house where she had worked as a young girl. Through Gates's memories and portraits of the people in his early life, he conveys a deep sense of and longing for the extended family andclose community that was so much a part of an earlier America. Full of humor, thoughtful, and engaging, Gates has written a classic coming-of-age story that will inspire generations to come.