Nobody Rich or Famous (Paperback)

A Family Memoir

By Richard Shelton

University of Arizona Press, 9780816533992, 296pp.

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

List Price: 19.95*
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Description

Once in a while, a book comes along that redefines the concept of family. Frank McCourt did it with Angela’s Ashes; Annie Dillard did it with An American Childhood. In Nobody Rich or Famous, author Richard Shelton (b. 1933) immerses us in the hardscrabble lives of his Boise, Idaho, clan during the 1930s and ’40s. Using a framework of journals, road trips, and artful storytelling, Shelton traces three generations of women. We meet his mother, Hazel, a model of western respectability, who carefully dresses in her finest clothes before walking into a bar and emptying a loaded handgun in the general direction of her husband. We meet his great-grandmother, Josephine, who homesteads a sod shanty and dies too young on the Kansas prairie. We follow his grandmother, Charlotte, as she grows from a live-in servant girl to a fiddle-playing schoolteacher who burns through two marriages before taking up with the iceman.

Known for his storytelling, Shelton crafts a tale of poverty and its attendant sorrows: alcoholism, neglect, and abuse. But the tenacity of the human spirit shines through. This is an epic tale of Steinbeckian proportions, but it is not fiction. This is memoir in its finest tradition, illuminating today’s cultural chasm between the haves and have-nots. In the author’s words, Nobody Rich or Famous is “the story of a family and how it got that way.”


About the Author

Richard Shelton is a poet, author, and Regents’ Professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. He is the author of eleven books of poetry and the award-winning memoirs Going Back to Bisbee and Crossing the Yard.


Praise For Nobody Rich or Famous: A Family Memoir

“Richard Shelton doesn’t so much tug on the heartstrings as play an entire set upon them.”—Foreword Reviews

“A hard and honest memoir of a life filled with brutalities.”—Tucson Weekly

“Shelton is, above all, a poet whose keen observations and eloquent words explore the heart’s twisted paths in ways that speak volumes about the western experience, blood ties, and the power of forgiveness.”—Journal of Arizona History

“[Nobody Rich or Famous] time-travels effortlessly from past to present with an abundance of tales—real, tragic, and comic.”—Western American Literature

“A quietly profound memoir.”—Kirkus

“[Shelton’s] easy, comfortable tone is inviting, and he shares the scandals as well as the triumphs of his colorful family.”—Booklist

“Honest and intimate, contemplative and unhurried, this is a family story with all the passion and heartache and messes of real life. Most remarkable is the sheer immersive nature of Shelton's book and his ability to bring ghosts back to life, regardless of whether those ancestors are willing to spill their secrets.”—Pacific Northwest Quarterly

Nobody Rich or Famous is a triumph! One of the best memoirs I have ever read, written with understated grace and mesmerizing power. Do not miss this shining light of a book.”—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Transfer
 
“A gritty book, with several unflattering portraits of an alcoholic father, a physically abusive older brother, and the rough-and-tumble life in the ’30s and ’40s. But there is also the miracle of close observation, of tender feelings, and the poet who grew like an odd flower between the cracks.”—Michael Hogan, Emeritus Humanities Chair, American School Foundation of Guadalajara
 
Nobody Rich or Famous is a beautiful testament to the power of Richard Shelton’s gifts as a writer and human being. Part memoir, part social history, part prose poem, he has made a wise and astute portrait of his family growing up in the hard-rock seams of Idaho. Pampered was not a word known to the Sheltons; ingenuity was. Through his brutal and at times sideways insights, we see the human family more fully.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks