Subtitles: What Are They Good For?

I was surprised by how difficult it was to find a subtitled book. Internet searches I had done for other Categories in the Reading Challenge yielded scores of results. But my search for “a book with a subtitle” gave me one list of ten books, plus a lot of guides on how to write a good subtitle. Maybe I was wording my search incorrectly.

(I could have used Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – the second book I read for the Challenge – if I’d know this earlier.)

I was ready to start wandering bookstores and libraries, trying to stumble upon a subtitled book by happenstance, when a search for a book by someone I admire showed me this autobiography by Jimmy Carter – it’s a book with a subtitle.

(Actually, I’ve discovered that several of Carter’s books have subtitles.)

A Full LifeA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, by Jimmy Carter, was published in 2015.

The book begins with Jimmy Carter’s childhood in Archery, Georgia – a self-reliant, hardworking farming community of 200 people. His was the only white family in Archery. His childhood friends were all African-American. He worked alongside black farmworkers in the cotton and peanut fields.

He writes that during his childhood, he was unaware of the politics of racial discrimination. He thought that segregated schools and churches were merely “a matter of custom”. He didn’t know that only white people could vote or serve on juries.

The turning point in his world view, he writes, came at the pasture gate, when his playmates insisted that he go through first. He thought, at the time, that they were playing a prank on him. He learned, later, that his friends’ parents had taught them that white kids should always go through doors and gates first. It was his first encounter with racial inequality and privilege.

Jimmy Carter refers to these early years often in this book, and about how they shaped his college years at the Naval Academy at Annapolis,  his service as an officer aboard the battleships USS Wyoming and USS Mississippi, and the submarines USS Pomfret and USS K-1, his politics, his social activism, and his religious commitment.

While on leave, soon after graduation from Annapolis, he went on a blind date with Rosalynn Smith, a friend of his sister. Jimmy and Rosalynn eventually married. They had three sons and one daughter.

After leaving a long career in the Navy, Jimmy returned to Plains, Georgia, his birthplace, where he and Rosalynn ran a farm. His father had been active in local politics, as a registered Democrat, but was “a libertarian at heart”. Jimmy had been uninterested in a political career, however, until witnessing the disastrous “separate but equal” policies (which were separate but far from equal) persuaded him to run for a position in the Georgia State Senate.

(Rosalynn, writes Jimmy Carter, would barely speak to him for days after he told her that he was resigning from the Navy, but fully supported his decision to enter a political career. He also writes that Rosalynn may have enjoyed politics more than he did.)

Jimmy Carter lost the primary election, with one county recording 136 votes for Carter and 360 for his opponent – with only 333 people voting. There had been witness accounts of ballot tampering and voter intimidation. Carter took the matter to the courts, and eventually all votes from that one county were discounted. Carter ran in the general election unopposed, and became a US Senator. That was Jimmy Carter’s introduction to US politics.

Carter served two terms as a senator, and served one term as Governor of Georgia.

The book includes many pages about Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, running as a largely unknown candidate, with little funding. His opponent, Gerald Ford, became one of his closest friends.

James Earl Carter Jr. became the 39th President of the United States in 1977, winning the election by a narrow margin, and maintaining a low approval rate through most of his four-year term.

There is a lot in the book about life in the White House, both personal and political. Carter writes about his triumphs as well as his failures.

After losing his run for a second presidential term, Jimmy Carter became a professor at Emory University.

Jimmy and Rosalynn co-founded The Carter Center, a nonpartisan organization providing conflict resolution, election monitoring, and health programs worldwide.

They both have been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, building houses for poor families, for over thirty years.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter remain active members of the Baptist Church. Jimmy teaches Sunday School on a regular basis.

Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety is the twenty-ninth book written by Jimmy Carter.

I enjoyed reading this book. It’s written in a plain, straightforward language. (I imagine that Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School lessons sound like this book.) The story of his life is told with a series of anecdotes, in more or less chronological order. The book is illustrated with photographs, as well as paintings and poems by Jimmy Carter.

  • A book with a subtitle
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