Saturday, February 07, 2009
Life Against All Odds
Life Against All Odds
by Alfred Cave
(Outskirts Press / 1-432-72912-8 / 978-1-432-72912-7 / November 2008 / 240 pages / $15.95)
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM
Life Against All Odds is an autobiography about one man surviving in a cruel world instead of allowing himself to be destroyed by that cruelty. In my opinion, Alfred Cave's story is about real success. The reason I'm saying this is because many times during Cave's youth he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time but makes the right choices regardless of the hardships and challenges that keep getting in the way. Every time he falls down, he picks himself up and keeps going—an example others should copy.
I started reading Life Against All Odds on a flight from Oakland, California to Phoenix, Arizona. By the time I landed in Phoenix, I was halfway through the story. I had to talk to someone about the book, so I picked a captured audience, the driver for the shuttle bus from the airport to the car rental agency. During our brief conversation, he told me he knew all about discrimination. I said he should read this book and tell others about it. I said it was a history that should not be hidden or forgotten.
As I was reading Alfred Cave's autobiography, I wondered if he attempted contacting literary agents and traditional publishers first. If so, I felt this incredible story was one example of what is wrong with the traditional publishing industry and why the print media is in so much financial trouble. I know for a fact that most agents only read the first page and if they don't get excited, they reject. That is understandable since there are so many manuscripts to consider. However, it is my opinion that something else might have kept this book from being published by a traditional publisher and getting the kind of attention it deserves.
I finished reading Life Against All Odds on the flight back with more than an hour of flying time left. It would have been nice to have another fifty pages about Cave's life to fill that hour. I wouldn't be surprised if this book wasn't published by a traditional publisher because it stumbled in that swamp called Political Correctness in some way. Cave is blunt at times with his opinions. In fact, he's like many of us working stiffs that weren't born with a privileged life and gold spoons in our mouths. He's too honest, and Political Correctness sometimes requires one to be a skilled liar so people hear or read only filtered history.
Alfred Cave's story starts in Jacksonville, Florida, when he is born in 1930. It doesn't take long before his father Earl and his mother Sarah are gone. Alfred was a few years old when he was orphaned and separated from his older brother and sister and sent to live with his step-grandmother. Imagine being beat with a plank of wood that had small nails in it so your body has puncture wounds that bleed and stain the bed sheets with your blood leading to more punishment.
Alfred Cave survived that episode and tried to run away. He was caught and brought back to a possible worse fate leading to another, but this time, successful, attempt to run away to avoid an even worse form of abuse that managed to catch him later while surviving on New York's tough streets. Most kids that experience abuse like Cave end up taking drugs or getting in trouble with the law. Not Cave. He was smart and made the right decisions. With some help from a few good people, he survives, but it is never easy.
The fact that Cave survives growing up without being turned into a basket case is evidence that he is a resourceful individual. What he goes through is enough to break most people. Eventually, Cave joins the army starting as a private and more than twenty years later retires as a major. He did all this on a GED. Ending racial segregation in America started in the military and that is another aspect of Cave's autobiography—the history behind those changes. Cave was part of that military history and that is the most powerful story in his autobiography.
Cave is a fast learner. He doesn't hide his flaws either. He puts it all out there—his mistakes are on display, too. In other words, he is made of flesh and blood. We learn from Cave's autobiography that there are damaged people but at the same time we also see good people. It doesn't matter what skin color a person has. Evil comes in all colors; so does good. This story shows us that Cave is one of the good guys. If you want to read a powerful story about how one man survived discrimination, this autobiography does the job.
See Also: Books of Soul
A True Journey Through Fire