Born and Raised in Sawdust: My Journey Around the World in Eighty Years is the deeply moving autobiography of Lewis Thigpen as a black boy growing up in a loving family in a small, tight knit community in the deep South during the extremely segregated Jim Crow era. It captures his life on the farm and in school in a revealing, instructive, yet colorful way despite the discrimination he encountered.
Fearful of being a farm worker or common laborer for the rest of his life, he joined the U.S. Army, where racism persisted even though President Truman had ordered desegregation of the entire military in 1948. He served for three years.
Against the odds, Thigpen persevered. Despite adversity and lack of money, he attended college, earned the Ph.D. degree, and became a renowned engineer, research scientist, and scholar. He rose to become chair of mechanical engineering at a distinguished university.
The book is an easy read, designed for those who choose to pick it up at a bookstore, order it online, check it out at their public library, or download it to Kindle or other apps.
It is a valuable addition to the canon of biographies, histories, literary works and cultural studies of the South. It captures the mood of Southern writers such as Flannery O’Conner, Pearl Cleage, William Faulkner, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.
Readers interested in family history and ancestry will love tracing through Dr. Thigpen’s family tree, photographs and drawings. One photo shows him holding a silver salmon, the outcome of one of his favorite hobbies—fishing.
In his autobiography, Dr. Thigpen brings the clarity and conciseness of an engineer and research scientist who has written and published numerous articles in refereed journals.